Abigail Adams’ Little Known Side Gig as an Entrepreneur and Investor

Abigail Adams, Entrepreneur and Investor
Illustration of Abigail Adams by Cloudy Thurstag

Abigail Adams
1744–1818

During the Revolutionary War, Abigail Adams turned her husband’s position as an American diplomat in France into an entrepreneurial opportunity of her own. Adams persuaded her husband to send her merchandise from Europe—including fans, bowls, handkerchiefs, and ribbons—so she could resell it. During the recession that followed the Revolutionary War, she used her profits to buy government bonds for one fourth of their face value, resulting in an annual rate of return of 24 percent. By age 71, she had amassed $5,000 ($100,000 in today’s dollars). Though married women were not legally allowed to own property, Adams defied precedent and wrote a will, bequeathing her estate to her granddaughters, nieces, daughters-in-law, and female servants.

“If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice, or representation.” —Abigail Adams

Cloudy Thurstag is a Berlin-based art lover turned illustrator and art director.

This feature originally appeared in the Money issue.