Synopses & 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 her time faced. Though Patsy's name is familiar because of her famous father, 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.
"Thomas Jefferson's eldest surviving daughter, Martha (1772 1836), joined her mother and Jefferson's slave-mistress Sally Hemings as one of three prominent women in the third president's life of public prestige and personal tragedy. Kierner, a professor of history at George Mason University, describes how Martha, educated in a Parisian convent, witnessed the births of the American and French Revolutions and later served as her father's confidante, balancing multiple concerns while following the era's approved societal and marital constraints. Even when married with 11 children and conflicted over slavery, resourceful Martha remained entangled in her father's world, from serving as hostess at the White House (in place of her late mother) to overseeing a cadre of Monticello's female slaves spinning cotton to reduce the family's financial strain. With an emphasis on the complexities of the extensive relationships among the Jeffersons, Randolphs, and Wayleses (the family of Jefferson's wife), Kierner succeeds in presenting a well-cited clear view of Martha's role both behind the scenes of a notable historical figure and as an example of the rarely chronicled contributions of women during the early American era. 30 illus., 1 map. Agent: Lisa Adams, Garamond Agency." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"A beautifully sourced biography of a woman who has long needed one. Kierner's clean, clear writing style shines as she brings her depth of knowledge to the historical context in which Randolph lived."--Catherine Allgor, University of California Presidential Chair, department of history, University of California, Riverside
"Kierner succeeds in presenting a well-cited clear view of Martha's role both behind the scenes of a notable historical figure and as an example of the rarely chronicled contributions of women during the early American era."
"[A] thoroughly researched and thoughtfully written account. . . . This will have wide appeal to students of American history, women's studies, and biography."
"[A] prodigiously researched and beautifully written book."
-The Washington Times
"[The] definitive biography of Thomas Jefferson's oldest and favorite daughter. The fascinating, well-researched work is a three-dimensional look at a person who was usually seen in history as no more than Jefferson's hostess."
-Rocky Mount Telegram
"Cynthia Kierner's intriguing new biography of Martha Jefferson Randolph. . . . is the first to tell her story from her point of view. It gives depth to the history of elite white southern women and their responsibilities, liabilities, and possibilities in the Early National period and illuminates the family ripples widening from the splash Jefferson created by taking up with his slave, Sally Hemings."
-Women's Review of Books
"This book is a welcome addition to Jeffersonian scholarship."
"Kierner is the first historian to place Patsy at the center of her own story. . . . This extraordinary biography . . . offers a unique look at American history."
"In this wonderfully researched biography, Cynthia Kierner makes Randolph an important figure in her own right and reveals a woman who deftly handled both her demanding public roles as the hostess of the president's mansion and Monticello and a governor's wife, as well as her more domestic role of mistress of an enormous and complicated household."
-Register of the Kentucky Historical Society
"In Kierner's capable hands, Martha Jefferson Randolph (1772-1836) emerges from her famous father's shadow as an intelligent, well-educated, pragmatic, and 'tactfully assertive' woman who brought up eleven children, managed a large and complex household, weathered a turbulent marriage, and coped with both financial reverses and family scandals."
-Journal of Southern History
-North Carolina Historical Review
and#8220;This biography is a page-turner, with writing that is lively and vivid, and Coraand#8217;s own correspondence, journal entries, and poetry give the book a very and#8216;first-personand#8217; feel. Thereand#8217;s a lot to learn here.and#8221;and#8212;Louise Lamphere, Distinguished Professor Emerita, Department of Anthropology, University of New Mexico, and past president of the American Anthropological Association
andldquo;Susan Seymour has produced a captivating, extremely well-written narrative that has much to offer multiple audiences that include anthropologists and students of the history of ideas and social science, but also more general readers interested in the biography of a brilliant, independent gay woman who forged an important career in an era when social obstacles made such accomplishments very rare.andrdquo;andmdash;David H. Price, professor of anthropology and sociology at Saint Martinandrsquo;s University and the author of Weaponizing Anthropology: Social Science in Service of the Militarized State
andquot;In the heavens of women in early anthropology, Cora Du Bois is generally eclipsed by the more famous Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict, but both her work and her life deserve our attention and admiration, and Susan Seymour gives her the biography that she merits.andquot;andmdash;Jack David Eller, Anthropology Review Database
Although Cora Du Bois began her life in the early twentieth century as a lonely and awkward girl, her intellect and curiosity propelled her into a remarkable life as an anthropologist and diplomat in the vanguard of social and academic change.
Du Bois studied with Franz Boas, a founder of American anthropology, and with some of his most eminent students: Ruth Benedict, Alfred Kroeber, and Robert Lowie. During World War II, she served as a high-ranking officer for the Office of Strategic Services as the only woman to head one of the OSS branches of intelligence, Research and Analysis in Southeast Asia. After the war she joined the State Department as chief of the Southeast Asia Branch of the Division of Research for the Far East. She was also the first female full professor, with tenure, appointed at Harvard University and became president of the American Anthropological Association.
Du Bois worked to keep her public and private lives separate, especially while facing the FBIand#8217;s harassment as an opponent of U.S. engagements in Vietnam and as a and#8220;liberaland#8221; lesbian during the McCarthy era. Susan C. Seymourand#8217;s biographyand#160;weaves together Du Boisand#8217;s personal and professional lives to illustrate this exceptional and#8220;first womanand#8221; and the complexities of the twentieth century that she both experienced and influenced.
About the Author
Susan C. Seymour is the Jean M. Pitzer Professor Emerita of Anthropology at Pitzer College in Claremont, California. She is the author of several books, including Women, Family, and Child Care in India: A World in Transition.