Episode 150: Woody Holton, Abigail Adams: Revolutionary Speculator

Abigail Adams lived through and participated in the American Revolution. As the wife of John Adams, she used her position to famously remind Adams and his colleagues to “remember the ladies” when they created laws for the new, independent United States.

In this episode, Woody Holton, a Professor of History at the University of South Carolina and author of Abigail Adams: A Life, helps us explore a different, largely unknown aspect of Adams' life: Her financial investments.

About the Show

Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.

It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.

Each episode features a conversation with a historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.

Ben Franklin's World is a production of the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture.

Episode Summary

Woody Holton, a Professor of History at the University of South Carolina and author of Abigail Adams: A Life, leads us on an exploration of Abigail Adams’ life as a savvy financial investor.

During our exploration, Woody reveals how Abigail Adams became an investor and the types of opportunities she invested in; How investing allowed Adams to implement some of her ideas about how the law should treat women; And, details about how Adams viewed women and their place in American society during the mid-to-late 18th and early 19th centuries.

What You’ll Discover

  • Abigail Adams and her accomplishments
  • How Adams experienced the War for Independence as a married, but often single woman
  • How Adams learned to manage her family’s finances
  • Why Adams speculated in bonds during the American War for Independence
  • The economy of revolutionary America
  • Abigail Adams, goods importer
  • Abigail Adams, land speculator
  • Why Abigail worked to conceal her investments
  • Details about Adams’ will
  • Adams’ successes and failures as an investor
  • Adams’ views on women
  • Adams’ relationship with her daughter Abigail (Nabby)
  • Adams as a parent


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Time Warp PlainTime Warp Question

In your opinion, what might have happened to the Adams family if Abigail had not invested in bonds, land, and goods during the War for Independence? 

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