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Beyond the Book

376 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 30 halftones,1 map, 1 family tree

ISBN  978-1-4696-1902-6
Published: August 2014

Martha Jefferson Randolph, Daughter of Monticello

Her Life and Times

By Cynthia A. Kierner

Awards & Distinctions

Finalist, 2013 George Washington Book Prize, Washington College, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and George Washington's Mount Vernon

2012 Slattern Award for Virginia Biography, Virginia Historical Society

2013 Julia Cherry Spruill Prize, Southern Association of Women Historians

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, Cynthia 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.

About the Author

Cynthia A. Kierner is professor of history at George Mason University.


"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

"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."
--Publishers Weekly

"[A] thoroughly researched and thoughtfully written account. . . . This will have wide appeal to students of American history, women's studies, and biography."
--Library Journal

“[A] prodigiously researched and beautifully written book.”
--The Washington Times

“This book is a welcome addition to Jeffersonian scholarship.”
--Virginia Magazine

"[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

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