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

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


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.

Thomas Jefferson had three daughters: Martha and Maria by his wife, Martha Wayles Jefferson, and Harriet by his slave Sally Hemings. In Jefferson's Daughters, Catherine Kerrison, a scholar of early American and women's history, recounts the remarkable journey of these three women - and how their struggle to define themselves reflects both the possibilities and the limitations that resulted from the American Revolution.

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 - a hothouse of intellectual ferment whose celebrated salonnières are vividly brought to life in Kerrison's narrative. 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, Kerrison has uncovered never-before-published documents written by the Jefferson sisters when they were in their teens, as well as letters written by members of the Jefferson and Hemings families. She has interviewed Hemings family descendants (and, with their cooperation, initiating DNA testing) and searched for possible descendants of Harriet Hemings.

The eventful lives of Thomas Jefferson's daughters provide a unique vantage point from which to examine the complicated patrimony of the American Revolution itself. The richly interwoven story of these three strong women and their fight to shape their own destinies sheds new light on the ongoing movement toward human rights in America - and on the personal and political legacy of one of our most controversial Founding Fathers.

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

  • abby

    After TWO MONTHS of trying to read this, I'm pulling the plug about a third of the way in. I hate to do it, but this book is so, so, so boring. I feel like I'm being forced to read it for school. And ...

  • TammyJo Eckhart

    Catherine 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 continu...

  • Biblio Files (takingadayoff)

    Thomas Jefferson had three daughters, two with his wife Martha, and one with his slave, Sally Hemings. Jefferson's Daughters looks at how the daughters were raised, their education, upbringing, expect...

  • Rachel

    This is a definite must-read for those who likes to read history, especially American history. Ever since I visited Monticello, I have been fascinated with Martha Jefferson and Sally Hemmings. This bo...

  • Cherei

    I read this book slowly.. as I wanted time to research a few items that I'd read. OMG! The author outdid herself. This has to be one of the best researched novels of Jefferson's daughters. If you've r...

  • Bridget Vollmer

    I received this book in a GR giveaway in exchange for my review.This I my first book I've read pertaining to Jefferson' daughters.I thought Catherine Kerrison did a wonderful job not only describing t...

  • Sharon Lawler

    More than a biography of Jefferson's three daughters, Martha and Maria, who were born to his wife, and Harriet Hemings, born to Sally Hemings, the author offers a heavily researched and documented des...

  • Tiffany

    This is a well researched and well written history about Jefferson's three daughters, two with his wife and one with his wife's half-sister and slave, Sally Hemmings. Kerrison's depth of knowledge is ...

  • Susan Ford

    Really enjoyed this book!...

  • TC

    I am not a historian by either inclination or education. I come from the upper Midwest and was not familiar with either Southern ways nor racial diversity. I chose to read this book because I was inte...