Martha Jefferson Randolph, Daughter of Monticello

Her Life and Times
Martha Jefferson Randolph, Daughter of Monticello: Her Life and Times. Univ. of North Carolina. May 2012. c.376p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780807835524. $35. BIOG
Historians most often discuss Martha Jefferson Randolph (1772–1836) obliquely as "Patsy," favorite daughter and lifelong companion to her father, Thomas Jefferson. In this thoroughly researched and thoughtfully written account, Kierner (history, George Mason Univ.; The Contrast: Manners, Morals, and Authority in the Early American Republic) tells Martha's story, looking at her directly and offering much insight. Kierner shows us a well-educated, self-assured woman who, as both Jefferson's daughter and the wife of Thomas Mann Randolph in a sometimes troubled marriage, navigated her way through both domestic and political life. Possessed of what Kierner refers to as a "perfect temper," Martha centered her life in the everyday domestic sphere but was also a well-known figure in Washington social circles. Throughout, Kierner offers nuanced glimpses of the limits and possibilities of women's roles in the early American Republic, casts light on Thomas Jefferson (including on his relationship with the enslaved Sally Hemmings) and his reputation, and informs our understanding of late 18th- and early 19th-century American history.
VERDICT This will have wide appeal to students of American history, women's studies, and biography.

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