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Household Gods

The Religious Lives of the Adams Family

Sara Georgini

Publication Date - February 2022

ISBN: 9780197647219

296 pages
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches

In Stock

A vivid exploration of the religious lives of America's first family, the Adamses of Massachusetts


Reflecting on his past, President John Adams mused that it was religion that had shaped his family's fortunes and young America's future. For the nineteenth century's first family, the Adamses of Massachusetts, the history of how they lived religion was dynamic and well-documented. Christianity supplied the language that Abigail used to interpret husband John's political setbacks. Scripture armed their son John Quincy to act as father, statesman, and antislavery advocate. Unitarianism gave Abigail's Victorian grandson, Charles Francis, the religious confidence to persevere in political battles on the Civil War homefront. By contrast, his son Henry found religion hollow and repellent compared to the purity of modern science. A renewal of faith led Abigail's great-grandson Brooks, a Gilded Age critic of capitalism, to prophesy two world wars.

Globetrotters who chronicled their religious journeys extensively, the Adamses ultimately developed a cosmopolitan Christianity that blended discovery and criticism, faith and doubt. Drawing from their rich archive, Sara Georgini, series editor for The Papers of John Adams, demonstrates how pivotal Christianity--as the different generations understood it--was in shaping the family's decisions, great and small. Spanning three centuries of faith from Puritan New England to the Jazz Age, Household Gods tells a new story of American religion, as the Adams family lived it.


  • Explores the religious lives of early America's most famous first family
  • Multigenerational saga of how faith shapes presidential thought and American culture
  • Draws from extensive archival sources in recounting 300 years of Adams family history
  • Examines the role religion held as the Adames navigated pivotal moments in American history, from the Revolution to the anti-slavery movement

About the Author(s)

Sara Georgini is series editor for The Papers of John Adams, part of the Adams Papers editorial project based at the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston. She earned her doctorate in history from Boston University.


"Its sweep through generations allows readers to feel the change of centuries in the intimate ruminations of thoughtful people. It offers a clear narrative that students can learn much from, particularly when they compare the voices of the Adamses with those of the many Americans who disputed their vantage point on U.S. Christianity." -- Katherine Carté, William and Mary Quarterly

"Students and teachers of American religious history and political culture alike should find this factually rich, insightful, and artfully written study interesting and profitable." -- Journal of American History

"Sara Georgini has the knack of making dry history as interesting as a novel can be... It is a must-read for everybody who is interested in American history." -- Washington Book Review

"This concise, well-written history helps address the role that Protestant Christianity played in guiding and shaping the Adams family and the country they served." --Library Journal

"The changing nature of American Protestant belief is skillfully illustrated in Georgini's close study of the religious evolution of the well-educated, well-traveled Adams family . . . the subject is fascinating." --Publishers Weekly

"Household Gods is a necessary and important addition to the existing scholarly literature on how Unitarianism shaped the Adamses and, through them, the United States." --The Washington Review

"Students and teachers of American religious history and political culture alike should find this factually rich, insightful, and artfully written study interesting and profitable." --Journal of American History

Table of Contents


    Chapter 1: The Providence of John and Abigail Adams
    Chapter 2: John Quincy and Louisa Catherine Adams at Prayer
    Chapter 3: Charles Francis Adams on Pilgrimage
    Chapter 4: The Cosmopolitan Christianity of Henry Adams
    Chapter 5: Higher than a City upon a Hill


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