The Women Jefferson Loved
By Virginia Scharff
(Harper, Hardcover, 9780061227073, 496pp.)
Publication Date: November 1, 2010
List Price: $27.99*
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Throughout his life, Thomas Jefferson constructed a seemingly impenetrable wall between his public legacy and his private life, a division maintained by his family and the several traditional biographies written about this founding father. Now Virginia Scharff breaks down the barrier between Jefferson's public and private histories to offer an intriguing new portrait of this complicated and influential figure, as seen through the lives of a remarkable group of women.
Scharff brings together for the first time in one volume the stories of these diverse women, separated by race but related by blood, including Jefferson's mother, Jane Randolph; his wife, Martha; her half sister, Sally Hemings, his slave mistress; his daughters; and his granddaughters. "Their lives, their Revolutions, their vulnerabilities, shaped the choices Jefferson made, from the selection of words and ideas in his Declaration, to the endless building of his mountaintop mansion, to the vision of a great agrarian nation that powered his Louisiana Purchase," Scharff writes. Based on a wealth of sources, including family letters, and written with empathy and great insight, The Women Jefferson Loved is a welcome new look at this legendary American and one that offers a fresh twist on American history itself.
Virginia Scharff is a professor of history at the University of New Mexico and holds the Women of the West Chair at the Autry National Center in Los Angeles. She is also the author of four mystery/suspense novels penned under the name Virginia Swift.