Louisa Johnson Adams was the first and only First Lady to be born outside of the United States. She was born on February 12, 1775, in London, England. At three years old, her family moved to France, where she received an education and also learned French. A few years later, the Johnson family moved back to England. Throughout her childhood in Europe, Louisa was educated. She went to boarding school, had tutors, and was known to be an avid reader.
When she was twenty years old, Louisa met her husband, John Quincy Adams, at a party that her father hosted in their home in London. John was in London doing business as the minister to the Netherlands for the United States. The two began writing to each other, despite the public disapproval in America concerning an American dating a British person. They married in 1797 in London and moved to Berlin when John was appointed to the position of minister to Prussia. From 1801 to 1807, Louisa gave birth to three boys. Two years after giving birth to her third child, Louisa and her family moved to St. Petersburg, Russia, when John took the position of minister to Russia. Louisa, who was unhappy about the prospect of living in Russia, was even less happy that her husband failed to consult her before accepting the position. In Russia, Louisa struggled with the cold temperatures and Russian culture.
In 1817, John became the Secretary of State during the presidency of James Monroe and the sixth president of the United States in 1825. Louisa hosted many parties and entertained important visitors during this time, but as the First Lady, she removed herself from any political or social business. She did what was requested of her but always saw herself as separate from her husband’s role as president.
During John Quincy’s presidency, the stress of the presidency caused the couple to drift apart. John focused diligently on his duties and work, while Louisa remained separate from his work as much as she could. Louisa enjoyed reading, playing her harp, and composing music, but became depressed and reclusive as First Lady. After his years as president ended, John was elected to the House of Representatives, and the couple remained in Washington for 17 years. They suffered terrible tragedies when two of their sons passed away, one from suicide and one from alcoholism. These terrible events brought John and Louisa closer together. She came to appreciate her husband for his public service and devotion to his work.
In 1848, John Quincy Adams passed away. Louisa lived on in Washington until she died four years later. The couple was buried side by side in Quincy, Massachusetts.