Mary Hellen Had Her Pick of John Quincy Adams’ Three Sons. She Chose Poorly.

Liz Jin
History of Women
Published in
7 min readSep 5, 2023

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Biographers have called Mary Hellen a “vixen” who tortured the Adams brothers with her shameless flirting.

Photo by The Cleveland Museum of Art on Unsplash

Before the Roosevelts, Kennedys, and Bushs, there were the Adams.

With father John Adams and son John Quincy Adams serving as the 2nd and 6th U.S. presidents, respectively, the Adams were the original political dynasty.

John Quincy Adams and his wife, Louisa, had three sons. On paper, they seemed to have it all. But like most powerful families, theirs was a story of pressure, addiction, repression, and betrayal.

Interestingly, the source of much of the family’s pain and drama came from a young woman named Mary Hellen.

Keeping it in the family

Mary Hellen was Louisa Adam’s niece. She came to live with the Adams in 1815 after her parents tragically passed away. She was only 9 years old.

Louisa Adams worried about her niece’s chastity; image source.

Mary quickly became acquainted with her three cousins. George was 16 and a hopeless romantic. John was 14 and the resident bad boy. 10 years old Charles was the youngest and the most level-headed.

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Liz Jin
History of Women

“I wake up in the morning with a desire to both save the world and savor the world. That makes it hard to plan my day.”