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

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

by Catherine Kerrison


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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
FINALIST FOR THE GEORGE WASHINGTON PRIZE • “Beautifully written . . . To a nuanced study of Jefferson’s two white daughters, Martha and Maria, [Kerrison] innovatively adds a discussion of his only enslaved daughter, Harriet Hemings.”—The New York Times Book Review

Thomas Jefferson had three daughters: Martha and Maria by his wife, Martha Wayles Jefferson, and Harriet by his slave Sally Hemings. Although the three women shared a father, the similarities end there. Martha and Maria received a fine convent school education while they lived with their father during his diplomatic posting in Paris. 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, history scholar Catherine Kerrison has uncovered never-before-published documents written by the Jefferson sisters, as well as letters written by members of the Jefferson and Hemings families. The richly interwoven stories of these strong women and their fight to shape their own destinies shed new light on issues of race and gender that are still relevant today—and on the legacy of one of our most controversial Founding Fathers.
Praise for Jefferson’s Daughters
“A fascinating glimpse of where we have been as a nation . . . Catherine Kerrison tells us the stories of three of Thomas Jefferson’s children, who, due to their gender and race, lived lives whose most intimate details are lost to time.”—USA Today

“A valuable addition to the history of Revolutionary-era America.”—The Boston Globe

“A thought-provoking nonfiction narrative that reads like a novel.”BookPage

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101886243
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/30/2018
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 218,058
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Catherine Kerrison is a professor of history at Villanova University, where she teaches courses in Colonial and Revolutionary America and women’s and gender history. She holds a PhD in American history from the College of William and Mary. Her first book, Claiming the Pen: Women and Intellectual Life in the Early American South, won the Outstanding Book Award from the History of Education Society. She lives in Berwyn, Pennsylvania.

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Chapter 1

Excerpted from "Jefferson's Daughters"
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Copyright © 2018 Catherine Kerrison.
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Table of Contents

Introduction ix

Author's Note xiii

Partial Hemings Family Tree xiv

Map xvi

Chapter 1 First Monticello 3

Chapter 2 To Paris 23

Chapter 3 School Life 47

Chapter 4 Families Reunited 73

Chapter 5 Transitions 98

Chapter 6 Becoming American Again 126

Chapter 7 A Virginia Wife 161

Chapter 8 Harriet's Monticello 189

Chapter 9 An Enlightened Household 215

Chapter 10 Departure 242

Chapter 11 Passing 275

Chapter 12 Legacies 309

Acknowledgments 335

Bibliography 339

Notes 351

Image Credits 403

Index 405

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