By Woody Holton
Free Press, 483 pages, $30
Absence may make the heart grow fonder, and the marriage founder, but for President John Adams and Abigail Smith Adams, the periods apart bonded them together-- and has been a boon for historians. The couple exchanged letters over the course of their five decades of marriage, and as many as 1,200 letters can be read today. Woody Holton made great use of those letters in his portrait of feisty Abigail, and his portrait of the Founding Mother depicts her as a shrewd financial manager, who enriched the Adams' coffers, and advocated for women. With Presidents Day behind us, she reminds us that the wives weren't just baking cookies, but exerting real power in a way that led to independence for women-- eventually.