Stranger Than Fiction: The Naked Truth

John Quincy Adams

John Quincy Adams

Some would consider President John Quincy Adams to be a male chauvinist by modern standards. In truth, he was simply a product of his time. At the time of his presidency (1825-1829) women had few rights. They couldn’t vote or own land, nor did they have a right to an education. The best a young girl could aspire to was to grow up, marry and become a house wife. Few jobs outside the home were held by women. Essentially, women were second-class citizens. This unequal role thrust upon women of the period was widely accepted by a consensus of American men and Adams had no intention of changing what he perceived as a perfect system.

Gradually, there began a movement advocating social change in regards to women’s rights. Known as women’s suffrage, the movement had little public support in the early nineteenth century because many women who advocated suffrage supported the movement in silence. Fearing the wrath of their husbands if they made their opinions public, they simply kept their opinions to themselves.

If the women’s suffrage movement were to gain any momentum they would need someone of great influence to lend his support. Perhaps, the women’s movement needed someone such as the President of the United States.

There was one problem. Like most other men, President Adams felt that a woman’s place was in the home and opposed women’s rights. Therefore, he would not even address the issue and rarely was he asked to discuss the subject. If the issue were to be addressed then a woman reporter would have to discuss the issue with Adams. The problem was that no newspaper would hire a woman reporter, as journalism was a man’s job.

Enter Anne Royal. She was the advocate the suffrage movement needed even if her tactics were questionable. She began to print her own progressive newspaper advocating suffrage. She publicly challenged Adams to discuss women’s rights with her, but he refused. She made repeated requests for an audience with the president but was curtly rebuffed each time. Gradually, she grew frustrated and began to stalk the president looking for an opportunity to discuss the issue with him. In modern times, Anne’s tactics would have gotten her arrested. But, the law was different in the 19th century. There was no law that would have forbidden her from pursuing the president. Besides, there was never any malice in her intent. She simply wanted to speak with him about an important issue.

She frequently walked past the White House and began watching the president studying his comings and goings. To illustrate how tenaciously she pursued the president, she discovered an opportunity to meet with him one morning—it was before sunrise while she was observing, or stalking, him. She learned that President Adams liked to go skinny-dipping in the Potomac each morning at 5 a.m. The following morning she put her plan into action.

She waited patiently in the forest overlooking the White House. Then as dawn slowly overtook the darkness she saw the president emerge from the back door of the White House. Fortunately, for her, there was no secret service in those days. Therefore, when the time was right, she would have the president at her mercy.

The president began walking down a path to the Potomac. Anne followed undetected at a distance. She gave Adams time to disrobe and get into the water. Convinced he was in the water she then made her move.

Adams swam for about an hour. Then he began swimming back toward shore unaware of Anne’s presence. He stood up and began walking toward shore when he heard someone say “Good morning, Mister President.” Startled, he looked up and realized that Anne was sitting on his clothes on a tree stump. Surprised, he quickly turned and sat down into the water to cover himself. Remembering he was a gentleman, he smiled and politely asked Anne to please leave so he could get dressed. She answered his request with a stern “No.”

Adams, taken aback, repeated his request. Again, she refused to leave until he heard her arguments for women’s rights. Adams was stunned. Although he was naked, he was still the President of the United States and he was being held against his will by a woman. How dare she?

By now, he was becoming angry. He again requested that she leave. When she refused he threatened to have the soldiers arrest her. “Go get them” she responded.

Realizing she would not be reasoned with he was running out of options. He had tried every way he could think to reason with her but to no avail. Finally, there was one other option. He would try to reason with her with a tactic men have used with women since the dawn of man. He began begging and pleading. Still she refused.

Faced with no options, Adams agreed to hear her arguments. He was embarrassed as he sat in the water for more than an hour discussing women’s rights. When she was convinced she had made her point Anne got up and walked away, thus, ending the strangest press conference in history.

This is one of 50 strange but true stories in a new book written by Michael Williams. The book is entitled “Stranger Than Fiction: The Lincoln Curse.” The stories will leave the reader convinced that perhaps Mark Twain was right when he said “truth is stranger than fiction.”

Michael Williams has written for more than 30 newspapers and magazines including the Civil War Times Illustrated, The Civil War Courier, the Associated Press and the Knoxville Journal.

The book is 187 pages in a softbound edition with numerous photos. The book can be purchased from for $19.95 plus shipping and handling or you can save shipping cost and save $2 on the purchase price by ordering a signed copy directly from the author. Send $17.95 to P.O. Box 6421 Sevierville, TN. 37864.

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Source: Michael Williams, Author of Stranger Than Fiction