Clover Adams: A Gilded and Heartbreaking Life by Natalie Dykstra

Natalie Dykstra writes a well-written detailed biography of Marion (Clover) Adams. She was Henry Adams wife. Henry was President John Adams great-grandson and President John Quincy Adams grandson. The book is an enjoyable read rich in facts about the mysterious life of Clover Adams. The author includes the works of Henry Adams and the history of The Gilded Age.

For the time period, one would surmise Clover and Henry’s marriage and life were appropriate. Both were educated coming from influential families. Although they married later in life than most for the era, they were able to share their love for the good things in life. Both were intelligent and good companions to one another. They never had children.

However, as time went on, Clover felt unrest in her life and her marriage. She became desperate in many ways trying to figure out why she was unhappy. Henry was no help, as most men were not nurturing during that time, so Clover felt isolated in her depression. Clover only knew she felt sad, lonely, and unfulfilled. She tried to find something to make her happy and feel worthwhile so she took up photography. This was a double edged sword because it did help Clover feel better; however, it wasn’t highly regarded as art. She took many photos and had her ups and downs during this time. She had a complicated family which at times added to her sadness, other times brought her happiness. She had a close relationship with her father. When he died, this was the beginning of the worst depression for Clover. She truly did not recover from his loss.

So while Clover was suffering, Henry was also depressed. At the same time she was losing members of her family and it all became too much for Clover. She committed suicide on December 6, 1885. She was 42 years old. What gave her hope was what ended up killing her. She drank the chemicals she used to develop her photographs.

Natalie Dykstra suggests the answers to why Clover took her life may be seen in her photographs. Natalie’s extensive research includes Clover’s notebook, letters, and family papers. From this research Natalie was able to describe to her readers Clover’s daily life, her thoughts and feelings. It describes life in the 19th century.

The book contains 31 extraordinary photos. One is a photo of an untitled bronze statue named, “Grief” that marks the graves of Clover and Henry. It is located in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, D.C. It’s sad, but people only know she was the wife of Henry Adams and that she killed herself.

Thanks to Natalie Dykstra, we know there was much more to Clover Adams.

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