Mr. Jefferson's Women

Jon Kukla, Author . Knopf $26.95 (279p) ISBN 978-1-4000-4324-8

This highly insightful study by Kukla (A Wilderness So Immense ), director of the Patrick Henry Memorial Foundation, investigates Thomas Jefferson's relationships with women, from Elizabeth Moore Walker, the married neighbor with whom Jefferson may have had an affair, to Sally Hemings, the slave whose children he purportedly fathered. One of the most fascinating chapters examines the young Jefferson's failed attempts to woo a classmate's sister, Rebecca Burwell, whose rejection of his marriage proposal may have incited the misogyny found throughout his writings. Perhaps the least satisfying section studies Jefferson's relationship with his wife, Martha: since Jefferson destroyed their private correspondence after she died, Kukla's re-creation of their relationship is necessarily sketchy. The conclusion moves to a larger argument concerning Jefferson's thinking about women as citizens. Kukla shows that Jefferson was much less open to women's political participation and education than were contemporary Enlightenment thinkers, and his “definition of America as a white male polity” was “rooted in his personal discomfort with women.” This is one of the most discerning and provocative studies of Jefferson in years. B&w illus., map. (Oct. 12)

Reviewed on: 06/04/2007
Release date: 10/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 279 pages - 978-1-4000-7857-8
Open Ebook - 220 pages - 978-0-307-53867-3
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