Louisa Adams

First Lady 1825 - 1829

Louisa Adams
Louisa Adams. MPI/Getty Images

Known for: Only foreign-born First Lady

Dates: February 12, 1775 - May 15, 1852 
Occupation: First Lady of the United States 1825 - 1829

Married to: John Quincy Adams

Also known as: Louisa Catherine Johnson, Louisa Catherine Adams, Louise Johnson Adams

About Louisa Adams

Louisa Adams was born in London, England, making her the only US First Lady who was not born in America. Her father, a Maryland businessman whose brother signed the Bush Declaration of Support for Independence (1775), was the American consul in London; her mother, Catherine Nuth Johnson, was English. She studied in France and in England.


She met American diplomat John Quincy Adams, son of American founder and future president John Adams, in 1794. They were married on July 26, 1797, despite the disapproval of the groom's mother, Abigail Adams. Immediately after the marriage, Louisa Adams' father became bankrupt.

Motherhood and Move to America

After several miscarriages, Louisa Adams bore her first child, George Washington Adams. At that time, John Quincy Adams was serving as Minister to Prussia. Three weeks later, the family returned to America, where John Quincy Adams practiced law and, in 1803, was elected a US Senator. Two more sons were born in Washington, DC.


In 1809, Louisa Adams and their youngest son accompanied John Quincy Adams to St. Petersburg, where he served as Minister to Russia, leaving their older two sons to be raised and educated by John Quincy Adams' parents. A daughter was born in Russia, but died at about a year old. In all, Louisa Adams was pregnant fourteen times. She miscarried nine times and one child was stillborn. She later blamed her long absence for the early deaths of the two older sons.

Louisa Adams took up writing to keep her mind off her grief. In 1814, John Quincy Adams was called away on a diplomatic mission and, the next year, Louisa and her youngest son traveled in winter from St. Petersburg to France -- a risky and, as it turned out, challenging journey of forty days. For two years, the Adams' lived in England with their three sons.

Public Service in Washington

On returning to America, John Quincy Adams became Secretary of State and then, in 1824, President of the United States, with Louisa Adams making many social calls to help him get elected. Louisa Adams disliked the politics of Washington and was fairly quiet as a First Lady. Just before the end of her husband's term in office, their oldest son died, perhaps by his own hands. Later the next oldest son died, probably as a result of his alcoholism.

From 1830 to 1848, John Quincy Adams served as a Congressman. He collapsed on the floor of the House of Representatives in 1848. A year later Louisa Adams suffered a stroke. She died in 1852 in Washington, DC, and was buried in Quincy, Massachusetts, with her husband and her in-laws, John and Abigail Adams.


She wrote two unpublished books about her own life, with details about life around her in Europe and Washington: Record of My Life in 1825, and The Adventures of a Nobody in 1840.

Places:  London, England; Paris, France; Maryland; Russia; Washington, D.C.; Quincy, Massachusetts

Honors: When Louisa Adams died, both houses of Congress adjourned for the day of her funeral. She was the first woman so honored.

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Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Louisa Adams." ThoughtCo, Aug. 25, 2020, thoughtco.com/louisa-adams-biography-3525084. Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2020, August 25). Louisa Adams. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/louisa-adams-biography-3525084 Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Louisa Adams." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/louisa-adams-biography-3525084 (accessed March 21, 2023).