Tuesday, Jul. 20, 2010

Johnson and Adams

Louisa Catherine Johnson, the London-born daughter of an American merchant, was the first (and only) First Lady of foreign birth. By all accounts, she was an elegant and sophisticated woman who spoke immaculate French, wrote lengthy travelogues of her European journeys as the wife of the American diplomat and sixth President John Quincy Adams, and was referred to with fondness by her progeny as the "Madam." But her charms never won her the affections of the fiercely proud Adamses — including John Quincy Adams' mother, Abigail — who were irked by Louisa's lack of New England pedigree and conspicuous foreign taint. Her married life would be an unhappy one, beset with migraines and melancholy, and consumed by a string of pregnancies: 14 in total, nine of which were miscarriages. When her husband passed away in 1848, she chose not to return to the Boston of her in-laws and died four years later in Washington.