Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams
February 12, 1775, in London, England
May 15, 1852, in Washington, D.C.
Louisa Adams became first lady when she was 50 years old and served throughout her husband John Quincy Adams’s one term in the years 1825-1829.
Louisa was born in London and so was the only first lady to have been born outside of the U.S. Though she was a U.S. citizen because her father was an American, her husband’s political rivals later used Louisa’s heritage against him when he ran for president.
The Adams initially lived in London for several years after their wedding, but then settled in Washington, D.C., where Louisa established herself as an excellent hostess by hosting evenings of music and theater parties that soon were the toast of society. Once Adams was elected to the presidency and they moved into the White House, Louisa continued to entertain, but her health began to decline as a result of a deep depression and she managed a much lighter schedule. Though Louisa was an accomplished musician––she played piano and harp and was also a talented singer––her husband had in fact asked her to stop performing as first lady. She complied and practiced her music during quiet evenings alone. She did however continue to invite other musicians to play at the White House.
Louisa felt trapped living at the White House and once described the mansion as “that dull and stately prison in which the sounds of mirth are seldom heard.”