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Jefferson's Daughters Three Sisters White and Black in a Young America

Ed a fine convent school education while they lived with their father during his diplomatic posting in Paris a hothouse of intellectual ferment whose celebrated salonnières are vividly brought to life in Kerrison's narrative Once they returned home however the sisters found their options limited by the laws and customs of early America Harriet Hemings followed a different path She escaped slavery apparently with the assistance of Jefferson himself Leaving Monticello behind she boarded a coach and set off for a decidedly uncertain future For this groundbreaking triple biography Kerrison has uncovered never before published documents written by the Jefferson sisters when This is a definite must read for those who likes to read history especially American history Ever since I visited Monticello I have been fascinated with Martha Jefferson and Sally Hemmings This book even shared details of Maria Jefferson Thomas Jefferson's younger daughter whom nothing has been written much about I will admit that it wasn't till this past year that I realized that Thomas Jefferson had 2 daughters since not much was mentioned about Maria I didn't even know he had a third daughter till I read this book This is incredibly fascinating It is a historical research that is packed full of information about the three daughters that I am looking at history with a renewed interest This is not a novel by any means It embraces everything especially the issue of slavery and Jefferson's descendants who were born in slavery but left passing for white This is a heavily researched book on Jefferson and his impact on his daughters the people around him and while the rest of the nation celebrates his heritage as a founding father this book exposes his human flaws in the fact that he doesn't think his daughters have a voice in the new country It is an incredible read and one that I think would appeal to new readers to history as well as those who do research for a living Kerrison did a fine job of tying all the ends together in her research while admitting there is that is left to the ages because she doesn't have all the information What she has here is a great start and definitely information regarding Jefferson's daughters who ensured his comforts in his old age and made sure his legacies continued I personally think this is my favorite book so far on the Jefferson women I am enlightened now as to what his third daughter had endured when she left the plantation to be an independent woman While Harriet still remains shrouded in the veils of history Kerrison did her best to explain what Harriet had to endure as a slave as an unrecognized daughter of Jefferson and what might have happened to her once she left the plantation with her older brother Kerrison also devoted time to that time period where slaves would try to pass for white especially if they were lighter skinned It covers a sensitive subject that still resonates even today 200 years after the Revolution I would definitely recommend this book to everyone who is interested in history

characters ☆ PDF, eBook or Kindle ePUB free ´ Catherine Kerrison

The remarkable untold story of Thomas Jefferson's three daughters two white and free one black and enslaved and the divergent paths they forged in a newly independent America Thomas Jefferson had three daughters Martha and Maria by his wife Martha Wayles Jefferson and Harriet by his slave Sally Hemings In Jefferson's Daughters Catherine Kerrison a scholar of early American and women's history recounts the remarkable journey of these three women and how their struggle to define themselves reflects both the possibilities and the limitations that resulted from the American Revolution Although the three women shared a father the similarities end there Martha and Maria receiv I can not reccommend this book In fact I'm somewhat shocked this was even printed in 2018 The information included is dated inaccurate and slavery apologist in toneThis biography while extremely approachable is heavily and not respectfully edited in respect to chattel slavery This biography includes 2 white women who exploited enslaved peoples and one enslaved person The enslaved person is presented as a labor exempt 'worker' If an author is too fragile to acknowledge that enslaved peoples were never 'workers' it doesn't bode well for the text The white women are never once clearly identified as slave ownersI know very little about the everyday life personal thoughts expectations customs and manners of southern white chattel slave owning women during this time period so that's interesting The clothing education and socialization expectations are all new and a fascinating addition to what I know about British and French women of comparable class and social standing The featured exchanges between Martha and her contemporaries at her French Boarding School over their lifetimes is enlightening Ms Kerrison mentions Annette Gordon Reed's groundbreaking research into The Hemings Family with great respect but seems to use the facts provided therein minimally and to flat effect Gone is the verbose richness and detail of setting which highlight the recounting of the histories of Martha and Maria Jefferson and their familiescontemporaries There seems to be a bare bones almost outline approach with facts connected but barely fleshed out with appropriate period detail Not many facts are known about any of these women and their lives but a much richer narrative is created for Martha and Maria Also as this is published in 2018 by a Professor of History and Women Gender Studies I expected the current verbiage of 'enslaved peoples' which is now considered moderately standard in academia Those expectations were in vain Worse yet Kerrison actually adds the title 'slave' to various enslaved peoples and never once the title 'slave owner' in referencing the multiple slave owning white people in this book Example 'Slave Isaac Jefferson' Whereas Thomas Jefferson is never once referred to as 'Slave Owner Thomas Jefferson' While this treatment of enslaved peoples is not uncommon in historians who heavily study white 'slave owners' it's still blatantly biased and a racist treatment of enslaved peoples There exist centuries of historical precedent to ignore dismiss and downplay the evils of chattel slavery in biographies of slave exploiting white people This text includes no mention of the methods white women used to exploit enslaved labor nor typical punishments enacted by white women towards enslaved people especially those in the house The author tries to insulate Martha and Maria from any hint of the exploitation that made up their normal daily lives They exploited enslaved peoples who they also held in captivity for their labor this is never even indirectly addressed It's bizarre If I'm reading about this period in the UK about women of comparable class the roles of servants would be prominent as well as the names of personal attendants This lack results in the inclusion of inaccurate information about the lives and skills of Martha and Maria For example it's highly doubtful Martha or Maria had than a theoretical knowledge of cooking and household management as we understand these chores today Householdexploited slave labor management would largely have been handled first by Betty Hemings and then likely by Sally White wives and daughters on plantations like these planned menus and read aloud recipes to enslaved women who already knew the recipes by heartWhite women who had that much exploited labor at their disposal across multiple plantations didn't 'do' much of anything That is after all the main purpose of stealing oppressing and exploiting whole families of people a desire to NOT labor yourself These women didn't labor beyond child birth They didn't suffer want or privation no matter how strained their circumstances The system of forced labor that was chattel slavery existed expressly so white women of this class could have no real expectations of labor either mental or physicalThese women weren't even responsible for their own kids They didn't breastfeed change diapers stay up at night with unsleeping babiestoddlerskids and would only have been minimally involved even in the care of sick children Enslaved women would have provided the vast majority of the care and discipline for Martha's large brood of kids None of this is mentioned or detailedThe narratives of enslaved peoples in the US feature white women directly oppressing enslaved peoples especially women working in the house White women were often instigators of slave punishments the sale of individuals away from their families and the sale of enslaved children fathered by white men These white women had an active not passive nor spectator role during this time period This well documented history is completely missing from this narrative with the exception of single story in which a daughter of Martha personally whips an enslaved womenThese facts are left out because the author wishes to distance Martha and Maria Jefferson from their harmful and exploitative behaviors These women lived and breathed exploitation and oppression Biographers must effectively place their subjects in their appropriate historical place and time Ms Kerrison has published multiple non fiction historiestexts on the lives expectations customs education and hobbies of southern slave owning white women during this time period Clearly she is aware of the role these women played in slavery that she would choose to edit that from a biography about white female slave owners is concerning This unfortunately calls into uestion the validity of all of the information provided in this text as it clearly is heavily edited to reflect the author's own bias prejudices and racism

Catherine Kerrison ´ 5 characters

They were in their teens as well as letters written by members of the Jefferson and Hemings families She has interviewed Hemings family descendants and with their cooperation initiating DNA testing and searched for possible descendants of Harriet HemingsThe eventful lives of Thomas Jefferson's daughters provide a uniue vantage point from which to examine the complicated patrimony of the American Revolution itself The richly interwoven story of these three strong women and their fight to shape their own destinies sheds new light on the ongoing movement toward human rights in America and on the personal and political legacy of one of our most controversial Founding Fathers I read this book slowly as I wanted time to research a few items that I'd read OMG The author outdid herself This has to be one of the best researched novels of Jefferson's daughters If you've read First Daughter then this book is a MUST read You will gain insights that you would not have even thought of prior to reading this story It's a standalone novel you do not need to do prior reading but it does help you understand the Jefferson family and their role in forming this countryI did not realize that his wooded retreat was three days from Monticello Everyone else made out like it was just a few miles in the woods Jefferson's architectural building concepts were so far ahead of his time it's not funny Though I found it very odd that he chose to give himself the best lit rooms and then locked the library To visit his sanctuary was by permission only An absolute treat for the mind A book that I am sure I will re read than a few times in the coming years

  • Hardcover
  • 425
  • Jefferson's Daughters Three Sisters White and Black in a Young America
  • Catherine Kerrison
  • English
  • 14 January 2018
  • 9781101886243

About the Author: Catherine Kerrison

Three Sisters eBook ↠ Catherine Kerrison is an associate professor of history at Villanova University in Villanova Pennsylvania where she teaches courses in colonial and revolutionary America and women's and gender history She holds a PhD in American history Daughters Three Sisters White and MOBI :à from the College of William and Mary Her first book “Claiming the Pen Women and Intellectual Life in the Early American South” Cornell won the Outstandi.



10 thoughts on “Jefferson's Daughters Three Sisters White and Black in a Young America

  1. says:

    This book is either a biographical history of Thomas Jefferson's three daughters 2 white and 1 black or a commentary on the plight of women in the late 18th century and early 19th Whatever it is it's a disappointment As a history of these three women there is plenty of source material upon which to track the lives of TJ's two surviving white daughters Martha and Marie As for the daughter TJ had with Sally Hemings named Harriet there is virtually nothing of evidentiary value from which to trace her life while living at Monticello and nothing at all after she left TJ's mountain As a discourse on the plight of women of this time period these three could hardly be atypical of women this periodThe book begins in the early married life of Thomas Jefferson and details his relationship with his much beloved wife It details the difficulties his wife had with childbearing and her ultimate death from this hazardous chore of early American women TJ had 3 white daughters but the youngest Lucy did not survive beyond early childhood and died while TJ was in France When TJ went to France he brought his oldest daughter Martha and left his younger daughter with relatives as it was thought she was too young to make such a demanding voyage While in France TJ had Martha enrolled in a convent school where she would be joined by her younger sister a few years later At this school these girls received an education far beyond what was usually experienced by girls in America Also receiving the benefit of learning and experience far beyond the usual was Sally Hemings who was tasked with accompanying young Marie on her trip to join her father in France These three girls were living a life of remarkable advantage that even they probably didn't realize and a good deal of it was documented primarily in letters that have survived It was in France that TJ began his relationship with the very young Sally and it was his promise to her that her children would be freed from slavery at age 21 that induced Sally to voluntarily return to the US instead of remaining in France and claiming her freedom thereUpon TJ's return to the US Martha and Marie assumed the expected life of women in that era and Sally returned to slavery at Monticello but in a much privileged station far easier than that of the other Jefferson slaves Sally had several children by TJ but only one daughter Harriet Harriet also enjoyed a privileged childhood for a girl born in slavery but that changed at age 14 when TJ put her to work in his textile factory The lives of the Martha and Marie are easily tracked but there is nearly no substantial record of Harriet's life beyond what might be mentioned in Jefferson's Farm Book which recorded slave information but only as an accounting record This book recorded the allotment of clothing and food and recorded births deaths etc The lives of Martha and Marie are contrasted with that of their slave sister but here is where the history fails As nothing of substance is known about Harriet the author resorts to assumptions and speculation When such assumptions and speculations are based upon reasonable factual information then this can be acceptable but only up to a point In this book the author has abused the reader's tolerance Harriet's entire adult life as reported by this author is a total fantasy based on almost nothing but the statement of her brother decades after Harriet leaves MonticelloAs promised TJ allowed Sally's children to leave Monticello upon reaching age 21 However because of Virginia legislation TJ did not technically free these children as to do so would have reuired him to admit paternity which he wasn't about to do When Harriet left Monticello TJ gave her 50 and a ticket to Philadelphia Once Harriet boarded the Philadelphia stage all record of her existence ended Harriet's brother Beverely was living in Washington at this time and the author assumes Harriet went there instead of Philadelphia This might be a fair assumption but the author then goes further in constructing a life for Harriet in Washington instead of Philadelphia or some other city Many years later Beverely stated that Harriet had successfully passed for white and married a white man and had a family Beverely however would not reveal Harriet's married name or any other information about his sister The reason for this was because none of Sally's children were technically freed by TJ When Harriet and Beverly left Monticello TJ recorded them as runaway slaves even though he assisted them in their departure Had Harriet been discovered as black she would have been returned to slavery and her children would also have been regarded as slaves as the condition of slavery followed the mother's line Because of this issue it would have been necessary for Harriet to sever all ties with her family Jefferson Monticello or Virginia Harriet would have needed to create and entirely new identity in order protect herself and any children she may have had Harriet left Monticello in 1821 and the Civil War was 40 years in the future so her children were definitely at risk That the author was not able to find any documentary evidence of Harriet in Washington was not surprising What is surprising is to think that Harriet stayed in a city so close to Virginia and its risks of being discovered there At this point in the book the author launches in to a lengthy discussion of race relations the issues involved in passing and the difficulties for women in this period being able to support themselves outside of marriage or as widows This book is well written and there is a lot of interesting information but it seems unfocused The amount of speculation almost makes this book a work of fiction as it relates to Harriet Hemings so it is a poor history The information about the lives of women at this time is interesting but Martha and Marie Jefferson are very poor examples of the women of this time Both these ladies received an elite education and enjoyed the distinction and notoriety of being the daughters of Thomas Jefferson Both of these women then embraced typical domesticity and did nothing with their educations or their lives except to be wives and mothers When TJ died and his debts impoverished the surviving Martha it was only at this point that she realized that her education was wasted on her It seems that TJ the man of the people raised daughters that were snobs and too spoiled and privileged to make a living if they had to That seems to be an issue for this author that women were prevented from making a living and I think that is true but there are other examples of women in this same time that did manage to accomplish things I was surprised that neither Martha nor Marie ever started a school in Virginia for girls but apparently the idea never occurred to them or it was deemed an unacceptable endeavor Sad However to base a discussion on the plight of early 19th century women on the lives of Martha and Marie Jefferson seems woefully incomplete and then to use the unknown life of Harriet Hemings as a platform to discuss slavery race and the perils of trying to pass as white does seem to go a bit too far and stretches credibility to an extreme

  2. says:

    Catherine Kerrison has a difficult task in this book She wants to tell us about the three daughters that Founding Father Thomas Jefferson raised to adulthood I say raised because as you continue reading you discover just how little direct contact he often had with his daughters particularly Harriet who was born into slavery via her mother Sally Hemings Hemings had been promised freedom for her children when they turned 21 years old but Jefferson's gendered attitudes and belief in racial ineualities resulted in her never being given legal documents to protect her freed status Instead Harriet had to pass as white and thus disappeared from historical records to protect herself and her children Kerrison has a good chapter walking us through her look into every type of record she could to try and find out what happened to Harriet and it is a good example for wouldbe historians to understand History is not easy to construct if one is not of the most privileged group While there is no doubt that compared to other slaves Jefferson owned the Hemings children were treated better they were still treated as his slaves because they wereJefferson's daughter Maria leaves behind records of her life yet because she was not the chosen companion of her father we do not have as much as we do from the older daughter Martha that's I'll write about in the next paragraph Maria comes across as a very different personality though how much of that reflects innate differences versis how they were raised and how much contact they had with their father Maria did marry and have children but she died relatively young Even though Jefferson claimed her death touched him given the information that Kerrison shares his grief felt weak to meThe daughter Jefferson was closest to Martha was the one whom we know most about because she functioned in many ways as first lady in the family and in his political career Martha's personality seems to change dramatically from her early life in America to her years in France to her return to America At first we might hope she's learned to see all humans as human from her years in a convent but records about her life back at her father's and then her plantation show she thoroughly bought into the philosophy underlying slavery and enforced itAt times the text is challenging to follow If the chapters had been laid out one sister and then another it would have been clearer to follow perhaps but the text is chronologically arranged The switching between sisters' experiences and describing the world they live in feels overwhelming at times I believe their experiences could have been better differentiated at times to help a layperson understand easilyEven as a historian who has studied gender and slavery this book was emotionally challenging to read It should be difficult to read and Kerrison has done a good job of not toning down the realities

  3. says:

    I can not reccommend this book In fact I'm somewhat shocked this was even printed in 2018 The information included is dated inaccurate and slavery apologist in toneThis biography while extremely approachable is heavily and not respectfully edited in respect to chattel slavery This biography includes 2 white women who exploited enslaved peoples and one enslaved person The enslaved person is presented as a labor exempt 'worker' If an author is too fragile to acknowledge that enslaved peoples were never 'workers' it doesn't bode well for the text The white women are never once clearly identified as slave ownersI know very little about the everyday life personal thoughts expectations customs and manners of southern white chattel slave owning women during this time period so that's interesting The clothing education and socialization expectations are all new and a fascinating addition to what I know about British and French women of comparable class and social standing The featured exchanges between Martha and her contemporaries at her French Boarding School over their lifetimes is enlightening Ms Kerrison mentions Annette Gordon Reed's groundbreaking research into The Hemings Family with great respect but seems to use the facts provided therein minimally and to flat effect Gone is the verbose richness and detail of setting which highlight the recounting of the histories of Martha and Maria Jefferson and their familiescontemporaries There seems to be a bare bones almost outline approach with facts connected but barely fleshed out with appropriate period detail Not many facts are known about any of these women and their lives but a much richer narrative is created for Martha and Maria Also as this is published in 2018 by a Professor of History and Women Gender Studies I expected the current verbiage of 'enslaved peoples' which is now considered moderately standard in academia Those expectations were in vain Worse yet Kerrison actually adds the title 'slave' to various enslaved peoples and never once the title 'slave owner' in referencing the multiple slave owning white people in this book Example 'Slave Isaac Jefferson' Whereas Thomas Jefferson is never once referred to as 'Slave Owner Thomas Jefferson' While this treatment of enslaved peoples is not uncommon in historians who heavily study white 'slave owners' it's still blatantly biased and a racist treatment of enslaved peoples There exist centuries of historical precedent to ignore dismiss and downplay the evils of chattel slavery in biographies of slave exploiting white people This text includes no mention of the methods white women used to exploit enslaved labor nor typical punishments enacted by white women towards enslaved people especially those in the house The author tries to insulate Martha and Maria from any hint of the exploitation that made up their normal daily lives They exploited enslaved peoples who they also held in captivity for their labor this is never even indirectly addressed It's bizarre If I'm reading about this period in the UK about women of comparable class the roles of servants would be prominent as well as the names of personal attendants This lack results in the inclusion of inaccurate information about the lives and skills of Martha and Maria For example it's highly doubtful Martha or Maria had than a theoretical knowledge of cooking and household management as we understand these chores today Householdexploited slave labor management would largely have been handled first by Betty Hemings and then likely by Sally White wives and daughters on plantations like these planned menus and read aloud recipes to enslaved women who already knew the recipes by heartWhite women who had that much exploited labor at their disposal across multiple plantations didn't 'do' much of anything That is after all the main purpose of stealing oppressing and exploiting whole families of people a desire to NOT labor yourself These women didn't labor beyond child birth They didn't suffer want or privation no matter how strained their circumstances The system of forced labor that was chattel slavery existed expressly so white women of this class could have no real expectations of labor either mental or physicalThese women weren't even responsible for their own kids They didn't breastfeed change diapers stay up at night with unsleeping babiestoddlerskids and would only have been minimally involved even in the care of sick children Enslaved women would have provided the vast majority of the care and discipline for Martha's large brood of kids None of this is mentioned or detailedThe narratives of enslaved peoples in the US feature white women directly oppressing enslaved peoples especially women working in the house White women were often instigators of slave punishments the sale of individuals away from their families and the sale of enslaved children fathered by white men These white women had an active not passive nor spectator role during this time period This well documented history is completely missing from this narrative with the exception of single story in which a daughter of Martha personally whips an enslaved womenThese facts are left out because the author wishes to distance Martha and Maria Jefferson from their harmful and exploitative behaviors These women lived and breathed exploitation and oppression Biographers must effectively place their subjects in their appropriate historical place and time Ms Kerrison has published multiple non fiction historiestexts on the lives expectations customs education and hobbies of southern slave owning white women during this time period Clearly she is aware of the role these women played in slavery that she would choose to edit that from a biography about white female slave owners is concerning This unfortunately calls into uestion the validity of all of the information provided in this text as it clearly is heavily edited to reflect the author's own bias prejudices and racism

  4. says:

    Thomas Jefferson had three daughters two with his wife Martha and one with his slave Sally Hemings Jefferson's Daughters looks at how the daughters were raised their education upbringing expectations and how they fared in adulthood Although I was aware that Jefferson had children with Sally Hemings I did not know that Hemings was actually a half sister of his deceased wife they had the same father Sally Hemings' mother also probably had a white father so Sally was by all accounts fair skinned and straight haired Still this was no love match Sally was a slave and Jefferson treated her and her children as slaves He made some concessions such as allowing them to be house servants rather than field hands but he was hardly the proud father In fact he was embarrassed when it became common knowledge that he was fathering children with a slave The fact that he did not respond to the public accusations lets us know that it was not considered acceptable behavior and that Jefferson himself was well aware of thatSally had some leverage with Jefferson though She had been with the Jefferson family in Paris when he was the Ambassador to France and she learned French and important that if she stayed in France instead of returning to Virginia with the family she would be a free woman Instead she bargained with Jefferson who apparently wanted to continue the relationship with the sixteen year old He agreed that any children she had with him would be freed when they reached adulthood She decided to trust him and returned with the family to the StatesJefferson never treated the children as anything other than slaves allotting them the usual rations and clothing allowances not educating them and when they became adults he didn't actually sign over their freedom rather he allowed them to escape To legally free them would have been to acknowledge paternity which he would not doHarriet Hemings half sister to the Jefferson girls saw her brothers set out as free black men and how difficult that was for them She could only imagine how difficult it would be for a free black woman So she decided her best bet was to pass as white Evidently she was able to do so Kerrison's account at the end of the book of how she approached the puzzle of where Harriet went and who she became is a fascinating study in detection and genealogyExcellent study of how women in an upper class American household at the turn of the 18th century lived

  5. says:

    This is a definite must read for those who likes to read history especially American history Ever since I visited Monticello I have been fascinated with Martha Jefferson and Sally Hemmings This book even shared details of Maria Jefferson Thomas Jefferson's younger daughter whom nothing has been written much about I will admit that it wasn't till this past year that I realized that Thomas Jefferson had 2 daughters since not much was mentioned about Maria I didn't even know he had a third daughter till I read this book This is incredibly fascinating It is a historical research that is packed full of information about the three daughters that I am looking at history with a renewed interest This is not a novel by any means It embraces everything especially the issue of slavery and Jefferson's descendants who were born in slavery but left passing for white This is a heavily researched book on Jefferson and his impact on his daughters the people around him and while the rest of the nation celebrates his heritage as a founding father this book exposes his human flaws in the fact that he doesn't think his daughters have a voice in the new country It is an incredible read and one that I think would appeal to new readers to history as well as those who do research for a living Kerrison did a fine job of tying all the ends together in her research while admitting there is that is left to the ages because she doesn't have all the information What she has here is a great start and definitely information regarding Jefferson's daughters who ensured his comforts in his old age and made sure his legacies continued I personally think this is my favorite book so far on the Jefferson women I am enlightened now as to what his third daughter had endured when she left the plantation to be an independent woman While Harriet still remains shrouded in the veils of history Kerrison did her best to explain what Harriet had to endure as a slave as an unrecognized daughter of Jefferson and what might have happened to her once she left the plantation with her older brother Kerrison also devoted time to that time period where slaves would try to pass for white especially if they were lighter skinned It covers a sensitive subject that still resonates even today 200 years after the Revolution I would definitely recommend this book to everyone who is interested in history

  6. says:

    A well written biography of Thomas Jefferson's three daughters Martha Maria and Harriet the first two born to his wife the third born to his slave Sally Hemings Martha has already been the subject of a full length biography but Maria who died as a young woman and Harriet who disappeared into obscurity after being freed have been given less attention Much of the book is devoted to bringing the latter two out of the shadows Kerrison looks at Maria who has suffered in comparison with her accomplished sister in her own light and attempts to reconstruct Harriet's post slavery life I recommend it

  7. says:

    I read this book slowly as I wanted time to research a few items that I'd read OMG The author outdid herself This has to be one of the best researched novels of Jefferson's daughters If you've read First Daughter then this book is a MUST read You will gain insights that you would not have even thought of prior to reading this story It's a standalone novel you do not need to do prior reading but it does help you understand the Jefferson family and their role in forming this countryI did not realize that his wooded retreat was three days from Monticello Everyone else made out like it was just a few miles in the woods Jefferson's architectural building concepts were so far ahead of his time it's not funny Though I found it very odd that he chose to give himself the best lit rooms and then locked the library To visit his sanctuary was by permission only An absolute treat for the mind A book that I am sure I will re read than a few times in the coming years

  8. says:

    Great history story regarding Jefferson's daughters and his life Much history on the white daughters speculation on the black daughter but at any rate I enjoyed the story Audio Version

  9. says:

    Catherine Kerrison tells the stories of Martha Jefferson Randolf Maria Jefferson Eppes and Harriet Hemings Thomas Jefferson’s three daughters who survived to adulthood Their lives show that when their father declared all men created eual he meant literally menAfter losing his wife Jefferson accepted an appointment to represent the new nation in Paris Martha went with him and enjoyed the convent school she attended She made lifelong friends and experienced female leadership and a curriculum usually reserved for men Maria when called to join them put up resistance as she did with her studies harpsichord practice letter writing and There is no record of how her 14 year old auntslave Sally Hemings who accompanied her felt about the tripWith little guidance from their father or anyone else teenage Martha Maria and Sally had to make choices for the woman they would become Sally’s daughter’s Harriet’s choices came later and she seems to have had some practical preparation Were there were any real choices for women? Everything rested on their patriarch and marriage was but reuired for Martha Maria and Harriet It turns out that Sally for whom marriage was not an option made the best choice You learn how the education Martha gave her girls who were all but barred from Jefferson’s library was of little use to them There is an illusion to the volatility of her husband In the end Jefferson’s casual solution to his debt thrust her into poverty Maria is presented as seeking security but to me she sounds spoiled and entitled Kerrison presents letters and records posing that the Eppes Maria's marriage was a husband and wife team but another interpretation is that Eppes was catering to her willfulness With no letters or uotes for Harriet Kerrison pours over Jefferson’s “Farm Book” which lists purchases sales products and slaves births and harvests for clues She visits sites and supposes what Harriet would have experienced thought and felt Thomas Jefferson is aloof from Martha and Maria and according to the lack of a record so from Sally and Harriet He designed Monticello for his convenience and not his family’s His educational priorities were music and embroidery for Martha and Maria and spinning for Harriet While Martha eventually moved her family to the plantation she was not involved in managing the Plantation or its finances on which her future and that of their daughters dependedOne story found in snippets tells the sad story of the times After Maria’s death her husband before re marriage sired a shadow family with Betsy Hemmings p 165 “who was a wedding gift of Jefferson in 1797” p320 He is buried alongside Betsy p 166 Martha Randolf Jefferson on her death bed p 310 tells her children to allow Betsy Sally and another to essentially live in peace ie not disclose the Jefferson linkThis book must include every snatch of the original material that remains available on these three women The tedious detail of this type of research is shown in her description of trying to find a trace of Harriet’s life in WashingtonThe book held my interest throughout There are drawings and photos of significant places and several portraits The photos of the HemingsJefferson grandchildren are stunning The index worked for me

  10. says:

    Too longIt is rare that I declare a book too long but this book is indeed too long While it started off very well and was completely captivating the last third of the book ended in endless repetition That's got to be some sort of logical fallacy So here we have the story of Jefferson's three daughters Martha Maria and Harriet In the beginning we get lots of detail on Martha because he life is so well documented Maria's brief life was a bit less so While Martha and Maria are his daughters born to his wife Martha Wayles Harriet is his daughter by his slave Sally Hemings Because of that Harriet leads a life that is almost completely unknown for very reasons that Kerrison does a great job at laying out The book does an excellent job of laying out the status of men women and slaves during the era I especially liked the descriptions of the architecture of Monticello and how it clearly demonstrated those differences Where the book falls down is at the end Kerrison runs out of ways to say we don't know when describing what is unknown about about Harriet's life Kerrision then spends much time going over the same points on status again and again It felt almost as if I were hearing the same sentences over and over again The end of this book really needed a good editing and tightening up It was so bad I kept losing the narrativeFor the most part the first 34s this book was great Perhaps a revising and a second edition would really make this worth reading to the endI recommend the first 34s Skim the ending

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