Crossings: Abigail Was Here (Boston)*- a public art project by Kathleen Bitetti

Kathleen Bitetti is a U.S. artist based in Boston, Massachusetts and she was an artist in residency at the Quincy Historic Society from 2005 to 2013 (Massachusetts). Although born in Boston, Quincy is the city where she grew up. Bitetti has been focusing a large part of her research on Abigail Adams and her life with her spouse John Adams. They are probably the first U.S. “power couple”. Research, unassuming and often undetectable autobiographical references, historical references, contemporary sociopolitical issues, and sewing are very important to Bitetti and comprise the foundation she builds on for all of her artworks.

Abigail and her family’s history was (and still is) ever present to those living Quincy. By reading Abigail’s letters, John Adams' diary, the Adams Papers, other scholars’ research, and with assistance from the Massachusetts Historical Society, the Quincy Historic Society, and the Adams National Historic Park, Bitetti discovered that Abigail lived in Boston from 1768 to 1771 and then again from 1772 to 1774. It should be noted that Abigail often went into Boston to shop for goods and to visit family and friends. “Crossings: Abigail was Here (Boston)” is Bitetti’s fifth major work about Abigail.

Starting on July 18th, 2017 and ending on June 20th, 2018, Bitetti will leave at least one artwork per month at a place Abigail had lived, visited, or frequented in colonial Boston (U.S.A). Bitetti will post on her facebook page when she plans to leave a piece behind for Crossings: Abigail Was Here (Boston). Each work will consist of a large clear plastic bag with a white envelope that contains historical information and a red velvet “bag” that Bitetti has sewn. The inside of the velvet “bag” has fabric with images of 44th U.S. President Barack Obama and the American flag. The red velvet was chosen to represent Abigail’s courage and to also represent her crimson furniture she brought with her and placed the Oval Room of the then still underconstruction White House to hold her first reception (a tradition that all First Ladies continue to this day). The images of the 44th U.S. President not only highlight the historic importance of the U.S.’s first African American President, but they also directly reference Abigail’s strong abolitionist beliefs. She was also strong supporter of women’s economic equality and equal rights.

Objects in the bag: 1) A hand made bookmark that symbolizes Abigail's (and Bitetti's) love of reading and her belief that women were entitled to an education (i) 2) tea 3) charms 4) a commemorative U.S. postal services' Abigail Adams Stamp. Bitetti chose to include a packet of the brand of tea that was thrown into the sea for the 1773 Boston Tea Party. The event occurred when Abigail was living in Boston and it was carried out by men she knew (ii). Several of the charms underscore Abigail’s travels and highlight Boston as a historic major trading seaport. These charms also reference Bitetti’s love of the ocean. The charms also have multiple meanings: The lady bug is Massachusetts’ official state bug and symbolizes good luck; the ship charms once again reference travel and trade, but also reference Bitetti’s immigrant past as both sides of her family immigrated from Europe to the U.S. in the early 1900’s via ship; and symbolically the dragonfly in “the west” has negative connotations, while in “the east” it has positive connotations. This particular charm is also a homage to Bitetti’s long standing patron: Sophia Solar Michalski.

For more information on Kathleen and/or to let her know you found one of the works, visit:

Thank you to the following: the Quincy Historic Society (Ed Fitzgerald), the Adams National Historic Park (Kelly Cobble), the Massachusetts Historical Society (Gwen Fries & Emily Ross), the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail (Mary Smoyer & Mary Rudder), the Old South Meeting House (Erica Lindamood), the Bostonian Society (Sira Dooley Fairchild), and the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library (Stephanie Cyr & Lauren Chen).

*During May 8-15, 2010, Bitetti completed Crossings: Abigail Was Here (U.K.). She selected several of the places Abigail stayed, lived, and visited in London and Devonshire (as it was called in Abigail's time) and left an art work at those sites as part of the 2010 London Biennale (which was founded in 1998 by artist David Medalla).

(i) During Abigail's lifetime, most women and girls were not taught how to read and write. Married women were also forbidden from owning or selling property. In essense they were the property of their husbands. All women were not allowed to vote in the newly formed country, to hold public office, or to serve on juries.

(ii) December 16th, 1773: No women have been recorded as of attending the evening gathering at Old South Meeting House held prior to that evening’s Tea Party protest.