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

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  122 ratings  ·  20 reviews
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 women of ...more
Hardcover, 376 pages
Published May 14th 2012 by University of North Carolina Press (first published April 15th 2012)
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Margaret Sankey
Sep 10, 2012 rated it liked it
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 imagina ...more
Doug Ingold
Nov 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 te
Betsy Cornwell
Oct 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I chose this book after a visit to Monticello. I wanted to know more about Martha and how she became a famous hostess in a home that was essentially a glorified bachelor pad. Seriously, the game room is bigger than the dining room and the stairway isn't even wide enough to carry a child. I discovered a multi-dimensional, intelligent, resourceful woman deftly navigating 18th century American society. Kierner doesn't sugar-coat the racism and misogyny of Martha's time, nor does she condemn it. She ...more
Mar 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A very well-done biography of a little-known woman, which also gives a refreshingly balanced account of the men in her life.
Mike Shoop
Jan 20, 2021 rated it liked it
Using a wide variety of sources, both print and electronic, providing copious notes, Kiernan presents a good serviceable biography of Thomas Jefferson's oldest daughter, who has become largely forgotten in the public memory except as the daughter of a great president. Martha lived a "privileged but troubled life," and Kierner deftly shows that, with plenty of information on Martha's childhood, her education in Paris when her father served there, through marriage with one of prominent (and numero ...more
May 03, 2020 rated it liked it
I was very excited to find this book via my local library and got my hands on it just as COVID19 forced the library to shut down. I've read a few historical fiction renderings of Martha's life (America's First Daughter, Monticello: A Daughter and Her Father), which I greatly enjoyed, but one of the most frustrating things they have in common is that they pretty much wrap up at the death of Jefferson. I have always wanted to know more about Martha's later life after the death of her father.

Janis Gage
Apr 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Must Read

I loved this biography of Martha Jefferson Randolph. Extremely well researched with primary sources it was well written biography about a daughter who previously was presented as only an addendum to her father. In this account it is very clear that Jefferson’s daughter can stand on her merits as a strong intelligent woman during a time when most women could not emerge from the shadow.
Joseph Holm
Jun 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very helpful and needed book for understanding Jefferson.
Jeanne Manton
Mar 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An excellent and objective view of the life of Thomas Jefferson's daughter Patsy. So very well written. ...more
Feb 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Donna Jo Atwood
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 live
Toby Murphy
Oct 04, 2016 rated it liked it
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 r ...more
Jan 19, 2013 rated it it was ok
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. Un ...more
Aug 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
Aug 06, 2013 rated it liked it
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. ...more
Apr 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Sep 15, 2012 rated it it was ok
This became a laborious read.
Mar 15, 2014 added it
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. ...more
Mary Beth
Sep 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A most excellent biography; serious and factual yet an easy read.
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