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Stillbirth and Sensibility: The Case of Abigail and John Adams


Although live births in America have been the subject of increasingly sophisticated historical study, pregnancy loss has not. This piece presents Abigail Adams’s own account of her pregnancy that ended in stillbirth, one she wrote to her husband, John. It presents, too, his response to her. As was true throughout their correspondence, they both drew on the gendered language of sensibility, which is therefore the other chief subject of the piece. It concludes by placing this language in the general context of its ambiguous value to white American women in the Revolutionary era.