Abigail Adams Drank Raw Milk

Abigail Adams, First Lady Coin

America's History is a Gold Mine of Support for Real Milk

On the eve of the 3rd Annual International Raw Milk Symposium, I just had to share with you a nugget of gold my husband found in the book he is reading about early American history.

Abigail Adams Took the Family Cow to Europe

by Kimberly Hartke

Early Americans were farmers and traders. Our nation’s economy was based in agriculture and hunting. The book, Dearest Friend-a Life of Abigail Adams by Lynn Withey, tells the story of the wife of John Adams, our second American President. The couple were very involved in the forming of our nation, and Abigail was a strong, resilient woman who kept the homestead,farm and children while John was away for months at a time fomenting revolution. They wrote long and passionate love letters to each other, from which much detail of their daily lives was written into the historical record.

Abigail Adams

Early American Revolutionary, Abigail Adams

In chapter 10 of the book, Abigail embarks for a trip to Europe with two servants and a cow to provide milk for the voyage. Abigail was a curiosity on board the ship, being a woman amongst a sea of men. She found to her dismay the cook incompetent and the captain incapable keeping a clean ship. Once she got her sea legs, she took to teaching the cook ‘how to dress his victuals’ and pitched in and made a few puddings, herself.


Abigail Didn't Pack a Pasteurizer

She then tackled the filth on the boat, and employed scrapers, mops and vinegar to set the ship aright. The author goes on to say that Abigail supervised the daily cleaning of the cabins and the milk pail, and quotes from her letter to John, “which had been enough to poison anybody.”


So the moral of the story is, drink your milk straight from the cow, but keep your milk pail clean!


Colonial Woman Milking the Family Cow

Kimberly Hartke is the publicist for the Campaign for Real Milk, a project of the Weston A. Price Foundation. She is currently in Minnesota for the 3rd Annual International Raw Milk Symposium.

This post is part of the Fight Back Friday blog carnival, see more challenges to the nutritional status quo on Food Renegade.com.


  1. Localnourishment says:

    Abigail Adams is one of my heroes, I even named my youngest after her. Her letters are well worth reading. The intelligence of our founding families is truly astounding.

  2. I loved this post!

  3. Stephaniejlin says:

    Abigail Adams was the wife of John Adams, our SECOND president. John Quincy Adams was the sixth president. John Quincy was John the First’s son; his wife was Louisa.

    • Thanks so much Stephanie for catching my error! I did this post in a hurry from my hotel at 6am, and googled John Quincy Adams by mistake. I have now corrected the story and really appreciate your help!

  4. And if she was alive today, the FDA would probably seize her cow!

  5. We have re-written history to make us think that no one thrived on raw milk, that no one lived before pastuerization, that we all need sterilized milk in aseptic packaging. It really isn’t the truth. Thanks for being a force for good!

  6. Pavil, the Uber Noob says:

    I am curious about the bucket. Was it a wooden bucket that was cleaned by rinsing with water?. Just curious.

    • My guess it that it was a wooden bucket, rinsed by seawater. While that does not sound clean by modern standards, natural wood has something in it that kills bacteria. This is true even for modern wooden cutting boards. My second guess is that between the salt in the seawater, and the antibacterial qualities of the wood, the bucket was clean enough.

  7. Annette says:

    Everybody drank raw milk in those days!!

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