Read Martha Jefferson Randolph, Daughter of Monticello: Her Life and Times by Cynthia A. Kierner Online


As the oldest and favorite daughter of Thomas Jefferson, Martha "Patsy" Jefferson Randolph (1772-1836) was extremely well educated, traveled in the circles of presidents and aristocrats, and was known on two continents for her particular grace and sincerity. Yet, as mistress of a large household, she was not spared the tedium, frustration, and great sorrow that most womenAs the oldest and favorite daughter of Thomas Jefferson, Martha "Patsy" Jefferson Randolph (1772-1836) was extremely well educated, traveled in the circles of presidents and aristocrats, and was known on two continents for her particular grace and sincerity. Yet, as mistress of a large household, she was not spared the tedium, frustration, and great sorrow that most women of her time faced. Though Patsy's name is familiar because of her famous father, Cynthia Kierner is the first historian to place Patsy at the center of her own story, taking readers into the largely ignored private spaces of the founding era. Randolph's life story reveals the privileges and limits of celebrity and shows that women were able to venture beyond their domestic roles in surprising ways.Following her mother's death, Patsy lived in Paris with her father and later served as hostess at the President's House and at Monticello. Her marriage to Thomas Mann Randolph, a member of Congress and governor of Virginia, was often troubled. She and her eleven children lived mostly at Monticello, greeting famous guests and debating issues ranging from a woman's place to slavery, religion, and democracy. And later, after her family's financial ruin, Patsy became a fixture in Washington society during Andrew Jackson's presidency. In this extraordinary biography, Kierner offers a unique look at American history from the perspective of this intelligent, tactfully assertive woman....

Title : Martha Jefferson Randolph, Daughter of Monticello: Her Life and Times
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780807835524
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 376 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Martha Jefferson Randolph, Daughter of Monticello: Her Life and Times Reviews

  • Margaret Sankey
    2020-01-25 07:05

    My disillusion with Jefferson started when I read his letter to Patsy explaining how she must obey her husband, a man Jefferson knew from the outset to be a spendthrift, obnoxious (and later mentally ill) alcoholic. Later, I encountered his creepy behavior with Maria Cosway and others, and his treatment of the Hemmings children, but the political brilliance of this alternately possessive and neglectful father never balanced out his flaws and undercut enlightenment with serious failure of imagination. This is the first substantial biography to deal with Martha as anything but an ideal hostess and lady--Kierner grapples with the ugly parts, how being a gracious hostess didn't have much overlap with running a plantation in a failing agricultural system, the various bad behaviors of the Randolphs (once you know they're crazy QUIT MARRYING them), Martha's sacrifice of the Hemmings' freedom and her careful construction of Jefferson's image during his Presidency and after his death with the selective editing of his papers.

  • Doug Ingold
    2020-01-23 10:04

    A biography of Martha Jefferson Randolph, the daughter of Thomas Jefferson, was a long time coming. While hundreds of books have been written about the founding father this is the first devoted to his remarkable daughter. In it we learn a great deal about the lives of southern women in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Sex, for example, was a very risky activity. Married women appear to have had no way to avoid pregnancy and they approached childbirth with the gravity we associate with terminal illness: writing wills and giving bedside instructions to family members. Martha’s own mother died at 34 following the birth of her sixth child. Martha’s only white sibling to reach adulthood, died at 26 following the birth of her third, and Martha lost her oldest daughter at 35 after her fourth child was born. Jefferson, a widower at 39, devastated by the loss of his wife, had ten-year old Martha accompany him to Philadelphia and Paris because she was his greatest source of comfort and he knew she would receive a good education. This at a time when Virginia daughters were thought too weak to travel and had little need of a formal education. Seventeen when she returned to Virginia, Martha was fluent in French and Italian, musically skilled and socially adept. Two months later she married a third cousin, the son of a wealthy Virginia farmer. Fathers of both bride and groom gave property and slaves to the new couple. Martha would give birth to 12 children over the next 27 years and raise 11 of them to adulthood. There would be political turmoil and she would become estranged from her unstable husband, a man who served as governor of Virginia and member of Congress. She would home school her children while entertaining endless guests at Monticello where for 17 years she ran her father’s household. She would wrestle with confused thoughts about slavery while overseeing a home shared by multiple families, some free some enslaved, entangled by blood and inequality. Among them was Sally Hemings, a slave who was at one and the same time Martha’s age, Martha’s aunt, and though Martha would go to her death denying it, her father’s fertile mistress. Martha would watch her family’s debt mount and land values collapse, and would live to see economic devastation and the loss of Monticello itself. Martha Jefferson Randolph was adored by her children and admired by everyone from Lafayette to the Madisons to Andrew Jackson as a welcoming hostess and lively conversationalist. While the book suffers from the occasional overstuffed sentence lumbering like a freight train across the page, the story is well researched, objectively told and well worth reading.

  • Susan
    2020-01-01 04:58

    A very well-done biography of a little-known woman, which also gives a refreshingly balanced account of the men in her life.

  • Joseph Holm
    2020-01-21 09:07

    Very helpful and needed book for understanding Jefferson.

  • Jeanne Manton
    2020-01-03 11:05

    An excellent and objective view of the life of Thomas Jefferson's daughter Patsy. So very well written.

  • Lani
    2020-01-18 10:17

    I was totally enthralled in this biography of Thomas Jefferson's eldest daughter. I've spent a good chunk of my life surrounded by Jefferson - living in Virgina and visiting Monticello, attending a HS named after him, spending time at the University he founded, and then attending his alma mater - so I have a certain fondness for the man. But I also always want to know more about the women, and you don't hear much about Martha Jefferson Randolph because she wasn't like the vocal Abigail Adams or the folk hero Dolley Madison.The main critique others have of this book, and I agree with it, is that the book is less about Jefferson Randolph herself than it is about the better documented people surrounding her. She was diligent about maintaining her father's legacy, but did little to keep track of her own.Most sources cited are letters to Martha or about Martha, or more general societal texts about the world she lived in. It makes much of the biographical details conjecture, particularly when the author tries to discuss Jefferson Randolph's motivations and feelings about her situation. Although it's a failing, I don't think it's a terrible one, nor does it seem to misrepresent the woman the book is about. (Would Martha agree? Hard to say.)I would hestitate to say this is the definitive book of Martha Jefferson Randolph's life, but I don't know that there ever will be one with the sources available. However, it's certainly a solidly researched book about a woman in unique circumstances, and a time when women's lives weren't necessarily well-documented. I found the book enjoyable, and I felt that the author did a wonderful job developing personalities of the principal people in Jefferson Randolph's life. More conjecture based on slim sources perhaps, but the characterizations of the crazy family members were what made the book enjoyable despite a rather dry topic.Worth a read if you're interested in the lifestyles and tribulations of Virginian women during a time when the state was struggling with the institution of slavery morally and economically. The troubles created by slavery as noted in this book make me wonder about the effect of cognitive dissonance and the motivations of the Civil War in Virginia.

  • Donna Jo Atwood
    2020-01-13 03:55

    If the number of footnotes are any indication of the amount of research done for a book, this biography should be a champion. If the standard of success is what you learn about the biographee's life, perhaps not (depending on what you alread know about Martha (Patsy) Jefferson Randoph).I can understand Kierner's problems with so many blanks in Martha's life--that is the nature of the beast with 18th/early 19th century women. Even relatively well-known women were expected to not expose their lives to the public. And Kierner does do a good job of pointing out in those blank instances what a typical Southern woman of Martha's social class would be expected to do.I found the intertwining family connections to be very interesting and, given the custom of naming children after other family members, they were remarkably easy to keep straight.My biggest gripe was the amount of time Kierner spent going on and on about Thomas Jefferson's relationship with the Hemings family particularly since she makes the case that it was not that big of deal to Martha.

  • Toby Murphy
    2019-12-30 10:20

    While Kierner has done her research and bought to life a rather silent figure, the writing could have been more layered. The writing was dry and missed the narrative structure that has pulled me in with other biographies. The book seems to lose sight of it's focus at times, whether that was to fill space or to paint a picture, but the the purpose of bringing up topics was not clear. I was hoping for more of a discussion as her role as hostess for Thomas Jefferson. While it is mentioned, it was rather rushed.

  • Victoria
    2020-01-20 04:04

    I had a friend who absolutely loved this book. I felt committed to read it due to her recommendation but I confess I found it to be a laborious read with a lot of details simply not known. I had to work really hard not to judge the Jeffersons by todays standards which people often have a tendency to do when reading history. Despite the challenges facing the world I remain grateful to be born and living at the time I'm living, life for a Colonial woman was hard, difficult and life threatening. Unless you are really into Colonial history and the Jeffersons I wouldn't recommend this book.

  • Joylynne
    2020-01-08 08:15

    Very interesting read. Not the fastest, but detailed, and reads well. Reads more like a story than a biography.Well done by the author, about a women very few know about. Detailed, but not overly so.Would definitely recommend those who read womens literature, biographies, or who are interested in womens' history.

  • Mistyblue
    2020-01-27 04:59

    I enjoyed learning about Mrs Randolph, although the book was at times a laborious read. Very little is known about aspects of Martha's life and nothing done by the author could change that. The true test to me about the readability of a book is whether I regret reading it and I don't regret reading this one at all.

  • Liz
    2020-01-17 06:12

    This was a scholarly biography of Thomas Jefferson's only surviving daughter. It was a smooth read- even with foot notes! It is amazing that the founding fathers were so brilliant yet financially strapped. Martha was an interesting woman to read about.

  • Aunt
    2020-01-12 03:50

    This became a laborious read.

  • David
    2020-01-03 04:13

    A good biography. Most people do not think about Jefferson's daughter as anything but his hostess in Paris, Washington, or Monticello, but she was far more than that.

  • Starling
    2020-01-14 09:02

    Very well researched. The writing style made it very easy to get immersed in Martha's life and times.

  • Mary Beth
    2019-12-31 10:00

    A most excellent biography; serious and factual yet an easy read.