Jefferson's Daughters

Jefferson's Daughters

Three Sisters, White and Black, in A Young America

Book - 2018
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A portrait of the divergent lives of Thomas Jefferson's three daughters reveals how his white daughters struggled with the realities of lives they were ill-prepared to manage, while the daughter he fathered with a slave did not achieve freedom until adulthood.
Publisher: New York : Ballantine Books, c[2018]
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©2018
ISBN: 9781101886243
1101886242
9781101886250
Branch Call Number: 973.46092 KERRISON
Characteristics: xi, 425 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm

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kwylie04
Mar 25, 2019

The cover of this book grabbed my attention and the pages kept said attention until the very end. I was absolutely fascinated by this look at the lives of the three daughters of Thomas Jefferson who survived to adulthood. I learned so much about these women (so far as sources allow, particularly where Harriet Hemings is concerned), and this book has become one of my favorites.

What made this book even more interest for me was that shortly after I completed it, I ended up visiting Monticello as part of a vacation. It allowed me to put the lives if Jefferson's daughters even further into perspective, and also that of Jefferson's many granddaughters who grew up there as well.

With the backdrop of 18th century Paris or Colonial/early American Virginia, seeing and understanding the lives of these three women, bound by a shared father yet separated by the identities of their mothers, the racial attitudes of the era, this book does so well in providing further understanding of how the views of race formed and came down to us in this modern day, something this country has and continues to wrestle with. Definitely worth your time.

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DorisWaggoner
Mar 16, 2019

I've read multiple books about Jefferson, including Annette Gordon-Reed's work proving via DNA that he was the father of Sally Hemmings' children. This book is more narrowly focused on his 3 daughters, Martha and Maria by his wife, and Harriet, by Sally. The comparisons are fascinating, starting with the different educations the girls received. Sally was sent to Paris as a chaperon to Maria after he sent for his younger daughter, whom he missed. While his white daughters were in an elite convent school, Sally lived in Jefferson's home, and was pregnant when the time came to return. She'd learned that if she stayed in France, she'd be free, but what would she do? She drove a hard bargain for returning with him, though--none of their children would work in the fields, and all would be freed at 21. He did honor those promises, though he did not free Sally herself. Two things especially interested me about this book. First, while Monticello is a beautiful house, it was built for Jefferson's convenience, and he never altered it for either his wife, or for the family of Martha and her family of 12 children when they moved in to take care of him after his retirement. Martha had one 15' square room in which to teach her 7 daughters, write letters, run the house; their bedrooms were all tiny and on upper floors connected by inconvenient, unlit, spiral staircases dangerous to anyone carrying supplies or babies. The other thing is that while Jefferson did free his children with Sally, Kerrison was unable, even with all the records now available online, to find Beverly or Harriet, who seem to have left together. At least she left with money, and clothing she'd need to pass as white, and to this day nobody's been able to find evidence of any descendants. Didn't show Jefferson at his best, but an interesting book.

j
Jenkskitten
Oct 30, 2018

Almost on the border of being boring...reads like a history book about Jefferson and the times with a few tidbits about the girls. Writing technique is like sitting down with someone who just keeps on talking and talking. The author labored too hard in trying to be factual with the girls; but it becomes boring with he said, she said etc... It was really hard to believe that Martha at the age of 10 was so mature for her age and reading on such a high level, it was like as if she was a trained dog. Gleaned some useful information; but it really wasn't worth the pouring over all the junk to get it. Low rate because of poor delivery of story and writing style.

b
bzetchr
Oct 04, 2018

Non-fiction, biography - while well written it reads like a history book - not what I was looking for or in the mood to read.

b
brangwinn
Jun 12, 2018

An interesting detailed look at both Jefferson’s white daughters and black daughters. Now only was the contrast in their relationships with Jefferson but how he viewed women and their place in society. What really impressed me was how much work it was for the author to find information especially about Harriet.

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TheresaAJ
Jun 04, 2018

Kerrison has carefully researched the lives of the three Jefferson daughters who grew to adulthood-- Martha (aka Patsy), Mary (aka Polly or Maria), and Harriet Hemings. While Martha and Maria received convent educations in Paris, Harriet's education was a by-product of her life at Monticello. Using primary sources and interviews with both Jefferson and Hemings descendants, Kerrison produces an interesting story about the very circumscribed lives of women, both white and black, in colonial America. Jefferson was a man of his times -- his only interest was in expanding the rights of man from white men who owned property to all white men. Women and slaves were still considered property by their husbands and masters. An extensive bibliography and many pages of notes document how far we have come and how far we have to go.

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TheresaAJ
Jun 04, 2018

" But, as it turned out, not even the daughter and granddaughter of the author of the Declaration of Independence would be permitted that freedom [to command fortune and direct the events of my life]; in spite of their scholarly attainments, they remained, after all, women.

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