QUINCY — Her influence on this nation is reflected in the thousands of letters she penned to her husband as he helped lay the groundwork for American democracy. But some residents of Quincy, the city where she is buried and lived part of her life, believe Abigail Adams — the wife of one US president and the mother of another — has been excluded from the city’s efforts to honor the work of her family.
Community organizers, who have collected nearly 400 signatures on a petition, oppose the city’s plans for the future of a life-sized statue of Adams and her young son that was removed from a park in Quincy Center nine years ago.
Instead, the city has released plans to install the statue in a nearby park, which residents say does not have as much foot traffic and is less prominent than the Hancock-Adams Common, as the park in Quincy Center is known. Two larger statues — of her husband, John Adams, the nation’s second president, and John Hancock, the former president of the Continental Congress — now stand over the north and south entrances to the pristine green space.
On Saturday, about 100 residents gathered on the steps of the United First Parish Church, where Abigail Adams is buried, to protest the plans to move the statue. They held signs that read, “Return the statue” and chanted “Where is Abigail?”
“She was probably the most important woman in 1776 to influence any part of what went on with the building of our country,” said Emily Lebo, who has organized residents opposed to the city’s plans to relocate the statue. “She deserves to be in this beautiful space. I don’t think it was intentional, but they have marginalized her and the contributions of women to this country. It’s fundamentally unfair.”
At issue, Lebo said, is proper appreciation for the work Adams did to influence her husband, as well as her advocacy against slavery and for women’s rights.
Chris Walker, chief of staff to Mayor Thomas Koch, defended the city’s plans for the statue and insisted it is going to an equally prominent place. In an interview Saturday, he said its new location, Merrymount Park, is just north of Quincy Center and has plenty of foot traffic. Abigail Adams’s likeness would be displayed on a walkway called “Adams Way.” And the new location would offer an educational opportunity to students at the middle school across the street from the park, he said.
“This has been ongoing for more than a decade now, a real citywide effort to tell the Adams story in a much more prominent way across the city,” Walker said. “And Abigail has always been a central part of that. These things take time. We’re not even close to being done.”
The statue in question depicts Abigail Adams with a young John Quincy Adams as they watched smoke rise into the night sky during the Battle of Bunker Hill. “Mother and son on the cusp of the revolution,” as Lebo put it.
It was built in 1997 with funds raised by a nonprofit, the Quincy Partnership. The group later funded a second statue of John Adams, located in the same park.
“I just thought it was the coolest thing that this city decided that it was important to have a life-size monument of a woman, smack dab in the center of the city,” said Claire Fitzmaurice, 61, a resident who helped organize Saturday’s rally. “It was at a crossroads and everybody had to go past them. And there was something about the fact that they were human sized too. It was a good reminder that this amazing woman lived here.”
When the city removed the statue in 2013 to begin construction on the common, the plans included space for it to be returned. Walker said it was at the request of the Partnership that the city looked for a place to relocate the statue. The Partnership has since been dissolved and its founder could not be reached for comment Saturday.
Walker notes that the city’s effort to pay tribute to the Adams family is far from complete. Tentative plans are in the works to rename the performing arts center after Abigail Adams.
For some residents, that’s not enough.
“This woman was brave enough to stand up for women’s rights in 1776,” said Lebo. “She helped found our country. The least we can do is put her statue in the city center for everyone to see.”