Book about thomas jefferson daughter
Jeffersons Daughters: Three Sisters, White and Black, in a Young America by Catherine KerrisonCatherine 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 Jeffersons gendered attitudes and belief in racial inequalities 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 were.
Jeffersons daughter, Maria, leaves behind more 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, thats Ill 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 me.
The 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. Marthas 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 shes learned to see all humans as human from her years in a convent but records about her life back at her fathers and then her plantation show she thoroughly bought into the philosophy underlying slavery and enforced it.
At 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 more 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 more easily.
Even 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.
Jefferson's Daughters: Three Sisters, White and Black, in a Young America
Look Inside. Jan 30, Minutes Buy. Jan 29, ISBN Jan 30, ISBN Jan 30, Minutes. 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.
January 31, When Thomas Jefferson, recently widowed, was appointed minister to France in , he brought his eldest daughter, year-old Martha, with him. Jefferson and Hemings had four surviving children, one of whom was a daughter, Harriet, born in
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