America's First Daughter
THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
In a compelling, richly researched novel that draws from thousands of letters and original sources, bestselling authors Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie tell the fascinating, untold story of Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph—a woman who kept the secrets of our most enigmatic founding father and shaped an American legacy.
From her earliest days, Patsy Jefferson knows that though her father loves his family dearly, his devotion to his country runs deeper still. As Thomas Jefferson’s oldest daughter, she becomes his helpmate, protector, and constant companion in the wake of her mother’s death, traveling with him when he becomes American minister to France.
It is in Paris, at the glittering court and among the first tumultuous days of revolution, that fifteen-year-old Patsy learns about her father’s troubling liaison with Sally Hemings, a slave girl her own age. Meanwhile, Patsy has fallen in love—with her father’s protégé William Short, a staunch abolitionist and ambitious diplomat. Torn between love, principles, and the bonds of family, Patsy questions whether she can choose a life as William’s wife and still be a devoted daughter.
Her choice will follow her in the years to come, to Virginia farmland, Monticello, and even the White House. And as scandal, tragedy, and poverty threaten her family, Patsy must decide how much she will sacrifice to protect her father's reputation, in the process defining not just his political legacy, but that of the nation he founded.
Praise For America's First Daughter: A Novel…
— Donna Thorland , author of The Turncoat
“Painstakingly researched, beautifully hewn, compulsively readable -- this enlightening literary journey takes us from Monticello to revolutionary Paris to the Jefferson White House, revealing remarkable historical details, dark family secrets, and bringing to life the colorful cast of characters who conceived of our new nation. A must read.”
— Allison Pataki, New York Times bestselling author of The Accidental Empress
“[A] triumphant, controversial, and fascinating plunge into the complexities of Revolutionary America, where women held power in subtle ways and men hid dangerous secrets. You’ll never look at Jefferson or his legacy the same way again.”
— C.W. Gortner, bestselling author of Mademoiselle Chanel
“Authors Dray and Kamoie have performed tireless research. Whether it’s detailing Patsy’s life as a debutante in Paris, where she dances with Lafayette and witnesses the first flickers of the French Revolution, or recounting the world of a Virginia plantation, they’ve done their homework.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“This is a stunning historical novel that will keep you up late, hoping the engaging story never ends. Highly, highly recommended!”
— Historical Novel Society, Editor's Choice
William Morrow Paperbacks, 9780062347268, 624pp.
Publication Date: March 1, 2016
About the Author
Stephanie Dray is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal & USA Today bestselling author of historical women’s fiction. Her award-winning work has been translated into eight languages and tops lists for the most anticipated reads of the year. Before she became a novelist, she was a lawyer and a teacher. Now she lives near the nation’s capital with her husband, cats, and history books.
Laura Kamoie is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction. She holds a doctoral degree in early American history from The College of William and Mary, published two non-fiction books on early America, and most recently held the position of Associate Professor of History at the U.S. Naval Academy before transitioning to a full-time career writing fiction. Laura lives among the colonial charm of Annapolis, Maryland, with her husband and two daughters.
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
If Thomas Jefferson’s wife hadn’t died, how might he and his daughter have lived
different lives? Historically, Jefferson is said to have made a deathbed promise to his
wife, and in the novel his daughter makes one as well. How might their lives have
differed if they hadn’t made those deathbed promises?
As portrayed in the novel and in their letters to each other, how would you describe
Jefferson and Patsy’s relationship with each other? Was Jefferson a good father? Did he
change as a father over the course of the novel? Was Patsy a good daughter?
Does seeing Jefferson through his daughter’s eyes make him more relatable as a
Founding Father? How so or why not?
The limited choices women had available to them in the Revolutionary era is one theme
explored in this book. What were the most important choices Patsy made throughout her
life? Do you agree with why she made them? Could or should she have chosen
What did you think of Sally’s choice to return to Virginia with Jefferson? Why did she
make that decision? What were her alternatives and how viable were they?
Another theme explored in this book is sacrifice. What does Patsy sacrifice in her effort
to protect her father? What did Jefferson sacrifice? What did Sally sacrifice? What did
William Short sacrifice?
Why does Patsy think her father needs to be protected? Why does she think she is the
only one to do it? In what ways does she protect him? What do you think of Patsy’s effort
to protect Jefferson? Would you have done the same thing?
How are Patsy’s views on slavery portrayed in this novel? What factors influence her
thinking? How do her views differ from her father’s or from William Short’s?
Why did Patsy decide to marry Thomas Mann Randolph Jr.? How would you describe
their relationship and how did their relationship change over time?
Why can’t or won’t Patsy cry? Why does she finally cry in the final scene at Monticello?
Do you agree with William that Monticello was “a set of chains”? Why not or how so?
Were you on William’s or Patsy’s side during their fight in the final scene at Monticello?
In what ways did Patsy shape her father’s legacy? In what ways did she shape our own?
In what ways is she America’s First Daughter?