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Abigail Adams. After a painting by Gilbert Stuart. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-10016 DLC).

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Adams, Abigail (11 November 1744–28 October 1818), first lady and woman of intellect, was born in Weymouth, Massachusetts, the daughter of William Smith, a Congregational minister, and Elizabeth Quincy. Abigail grew up in a prominent and wealthy family, descended from Puritan leaders and successful merchants. She had no formal schooling, both because of her recurrent illnesses and the limited options available to girls. Yet neither obstacle prevented her from achieving a remarkably broad and sophisticated education. She enjoyed the family’s well-stocked library, the stimulating company of educated relatives and parsonage visitors, and the attentive tutelage of her grandmother. Her studies ranged from Shakespeare to Locke, from Plato to French. She also began two lifelong habits: letter-writing to distant relatives and friends, and the practice of a deep Congregational faith....

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Keckley, Elizabeth Hobbs (1820?–26 May 1907), White House dressmaker during the Lincoln administration and author, was born in Dinwiddie Court House, Virginia, the daughter of George Pleasant and Agnes Hobbs, slaves. Her birth date is variously given from 1818 to 1824 based on different documents that report her age. The identity of her father is also uncertain; in later life Keckley reportedly claimed that her father was her master, Colonel A. Burwell. George Pleasant, who was owned by a different master, was allowed to visit only twice a year and was eventually taken west....

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Evelyn Lincoln Photograph by the Associated Press, c. 1962. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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Lincoln, Evelyn (25 June 1904–11 May 1995), secretary and author, was born Evelyn Maurine Norton in Polk County, Nebraska, the daughter of John N. Norton, a farmer and congressman, and Selma Josephine Floodman Norton. She moved with her family to Washington, D.C., when her father was elected as a Democrat to the seventieth Congress in 1927. She graduated from the University of Nebraska with a Bachelor of Arts in 1926. She attended George Washington University from 1933 to 1940; she took law courses but left before she received a degree. While in college, she met Harold W. “Abe” Lincoln, a fellow student at the university, whom she married. There is disagreement among sources as to the year of their marriage, but it appears to have been 1930, based on references in her obituaries to her husband of sixty-four years; they had no children. After they married, the couple moved to Albuquerque, where Harold Lincoln taught at the University of New Mexico. They then went to New York City when he was offered a teaching position at New York University. When he accepted a staff position with one of the committees of the U.S. House of Representatives, they returned to Washington....

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Lillian Parks. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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Parks, Lillian Rogers (01 February 1897–06 November 1997), White House seamstress and author, was born Lillian Adele Rogers, the daughter of Emmett E. Rogers, Sr., a waiter, and Margaret “Maggie” Williams Rogers. Source information is sketchy regarding her early years, but her godchild, Peggy Holly, believes that Lillian Parks was born in the District of Columbia and as a child spent summers with relatives in Virginia. Her father—by Parks's account an alcoholic unable to hold a job—left his family when she was a child; in 1909 her mother took a job at the White House at the beginning of ...