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Publisher's Summary

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 

Finalist for the George Washington Prize

“Beautifully written.... To a nuanced study of Jefferson’s two white daughters, Martha and Maria, [Kerrison] innovatively adds a discussion of his only enslaved daughter, Harriet Hemings.” (The New York Times Book Review)

Thomas Jefferson had three daughters: Martha and Maria by his wife, Martha Wayles Jefferson, and Harriet by his slave Sally Hemings. 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. 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, history scholar Catherine Kerrison has uncovered never-before-published documents written by the Jefferson sisters, as well as letters written by members of the Jefferson and Hemings families. The richly interwoven stories of these strong women and their fight to shape their own destinies shed new light on issues of race and gender that are still relevant today — and on the legacy of one of our most controversial Founding Fathers. 

Praise for Jefferson’s Daughters 

“A fascinating glimpse of where we have been as a nation.... Catherine Kerrison tells us the stories of three of Thomas Jefferson’s children, who, due to their gender and race, lived lives whose most intimate details are lost to time.” (USA Today)

“A valuable addition to the history of Revolutionary-era America.” (The Boston Globe)

“A thought-provoking nonfiction narrative that reads like a novel.” (BookPage)

©2018 Catherine Kerrison (P)2018 Random House Audio

What listeners say about Jefferson's Daughters

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Snoozer

I listened to 3 hours of this book and was bored stiff! I love historical novels, but this was worse than someone reading a history text book to you. The reader was monotonous - put you to sleep. I wish I could get my money back! Don't waste yours!!!

4 people found this helpful

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Summary

Very good history story regarding Jefferson and his family, Not much history on the African American daughters but it was a interesting read.

4 people found this helpful

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BORING

After 100 minutes, this book sounded more like a text book. It is neither interesting nor exciting and should only be used for a reference guide, as the information comes directly from the Jefferson's daughters and T.J's diaries themselves.

3 people found this helpful

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DAR Book Club Choice...painful to listen to

The author still seems pretty mad that the world used to be run by white men. I did learn interesting facts about the girls, but could have done without all the preaching and outrage since I already knew about the slavery and patriarchy. And the narrator drove me to distraction by saying EVERY SINGLE WORD with desperation and urgency.

2 people found this helpful

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fabulous history

this book reads like a novel but teaches us so much about each of the three daughters. and about the era, jefferson in paris and at Monticello, about slavery and day to day life, and about the daughter Harriet who passed over into white culture and out of Jefferson history.

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changes some historical facts to fit agenda

the books potential is lost in the author's political agenda with basic facts changed and assumptions made losing what could have been a good although long winded read.

2 people found this helpful

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Lacking

This book like other books of its kind down play parts of slavery. Like most historical documentaries it is white washed or downplayed when referencing any race other than the European race. I was hoping for a more honest version of the Jeffersons.

1 person found this helpful

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Good if you’re into history and like analysis

This is a really good analysis of the times in which Jefferson’s daughters lived.
If you’re really into history and don’t mind things being very detailed and informative, this is a book you would enjoy.
If you’re looking to be merely entertained, like reading a novel, or having personalized diary entries as the entire book, this is not for you.
The last 15 mins of the book gets a little preachy when comparing the struggles of black people today by comparing and contrasting with the struggles they had during the 18th and 19th century.
The author has difficulty finding hard evidence of what exactly happened to Harriet after phasing into white society, but she does in depth research about logical possibilities of her life.

A very good listen! I enjoyed it very much.

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very educational and informative

loved the details of all Jefferson's daughters ...appreciated the reader, she made the box exciting

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Riveting biography on Jefferson’s Daughters

Catherine Kerrison does an excellent job following the complex lives of Martha and Maria Jefferson, and their half sister Harriet Hemings. While it is sad that we do not have more factual information on the date of Hemings, Kerrison investigates possible scenarios while relating the stories of Harriet’s brothers, who are better documenting. Slavery and miscegenation are difficult topics but Kerrison does an excellent job of relating the facts and interpreting them in a relatively unbiased manner. The last chapter goes off the rails, spinning out in a diatribe about modern race relations without completely tying back to the story. It was like Kerrison suddenly realized that she had a platform and she needed to make use of it.

Other than that, this is an excellent read. I do feel that Kerrison is a bit of an apologist for Martha Jefferson who was responsible for selling off the majority of the enslaved workforce after her father’s death. Though it does seem that she suffered in the years that followed so perhaps her debt was paid.