Lesson 2: John and Abigail Adams

Getting Started

When young Abigail Smith met John Adams, a lawyer, they were at first not impressed with each other, yet they developed a strong attraction that grew into love relatively quickly. In the reading for today, you'll learn about the courtship and early married life of Abigail and John and, in your activities for the lesson, you'll focus on the importance of citations and on the structures of well-written paragraphs. You'll also consider what Abigail's parents might have thought about John Adams as a suitor for their daughter.

Stuff You Need

  • Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution by Natalie S. Bober

Ideas to Think About

  • How do the lives of individuals interact with, influence, and become transformed by the events of the time and place in which they live?
  • How does the availability of primary sources influence historical writing?
  • Can attention to the structure of a paragraph and the role of different component parts allow authors to craft more persuasive and powerful writing?

Things to Know

  • The sentences in a paragraph should all connect to and provide support for its main idea.
  • A topic sentence states the main point of the paragraph.
  • A transition connects one part of a piece of writing to another in a logical and seamless way.
  • Supporting sentences or supporting evidence provide proof that the main point of the paragraph is valid, deepen the reader's understanding of the topic, or provide necessary background information.
  • A concluding observation in a paragraph summarizes the paragraph and/or connects the ideas covered in one paragraph to the ideas that will come later in the larger body of writing.
  • Authors provide citations when sharing information that they learned from another source and when quoting directly from other writings to allow readers to view the same sources that the author used when writing the book, allowing them to more accurately assess the validity of the author's interpretation and/or pursue their own research on the topic.


  • Record bibliographic information (e.g., author, title, page number) for all notes and sources according to a standard format. (LA)
  • Differentiate between paraphrasing and plagiarism and identify the importance of using valid and reliable sources. (LA)
  • Analyze in detail the structure of a specific paragraph in a text, including the role of particular sentences in developing and refining a key concept. (LA)

Introducing the Lesson

In the reading for today, your child will learn about the courtship and early married life of Abigail and John. You may wish to preview these chapters to determine their appropriateness for your child and to make note of any topics you may want to discuss before and/or after your child reads the chapters. In the activities for the lesson, your child will focus on the importance of citations and on the structure of well-written paragraphs. She will also consider the suitability of John Adams as a suitor for young Abigail from the point of view of the Smiths.
Reading and Questions
Materials: Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution by Natalie S. Bober
Read Chapters 3 and 4 of Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution by Natalie S. Bober. These chapters cover the early years in the marriage of Abigail and John Adams.

The questions for these chapters will focus, in part, on the bibliographic information referenced in the reading. You'll note that whenever the author quotes directly from a source, she includes a small number at the end of the sentence or paragraph in which the quotation appears. These are called endnote reference numbers, and each refers to a detailed endnote in the Reference Notes section at the back of the book. The endnotes are organized by chapter, and they allow the reader to easily match up a quotation with the original source from which it was drawn.

Citations are important because they let the reader know where the author found his or her information. If the author has provided a full citation, interested readers can easily identify where the information or quotation came from and look up that source themselves. This allows readers to make up their own minds about whether or not the author has relied on valid sources of information and whether or not the author has interpreted that information correctly.

Of course, using information from another source without giving credit for that source is also dishonest because the writer would be failing to give other people credit for their ideas and for their contributions to the writer's own ideas, research, and writing. It is always important to give credit by providing a citation to let readers know where the author found particular information or ideas. If a writer fails to cite a source, it is plagiarism, which is taken very seriously in schools and universities and in the publishing world. The consequences of plagiarizing the work of another writer can be quite severe (for example, in many universities plagiarism is grounds for a student being suspended for a semester or more and receiving a failing grade in a course), so properly citing the sources you use in your own work is an important habit to get into.
  1. In the 25th paragraph of Chapter 3, which begins "In his letters, John often played the role...", the author describes Abigail's response to some criticism in John's correspondence with her. Use the reference notes at the back of the book to determine the source for the quotations in that paragraph.
    Abigail Adams to John Adams, April 12, 1764 from The Book of Abigail and John: Selected Letters of the Adams Family, 1762-1784, edited by L. H. Butterfield, Marc Friedlaender, and Mary-Jo Kline. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1975 pp. 28-30. (Your child may just list the author, recipient, and date.)
  2. In the notes referring to corresepondence in Chapter 3, what information does the author provide to the reader?
    The author of the letter, the recipient of the letter, the date, and the source where the book's author found the correspondence.
  3. The third note for Chapter 4 says that it was "Quoted in Bancroft, 3:77-78." Use the Bibliography (at the end of the book) to provide the full bibliographic entry for Bancroft.
    Bancroft, George. History of the United States. Vol. 3. New York: Dr. Appleton and Co., 1897.
  4. Do all of the sources cited in Chapters 3 and 4 seem to be valid and reliable sources of information about Abigail Adams, people connected to her, and her time period?
    The author has selected valid and reliable sources, drawing frequently from the correspondence of Abigail Adams herself, her husband, and other family members.