Monday, May 2, 2016

America's First Daughter

America's First Daughter
Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamdie
Harper Collins Publishing
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-0-06-234726-8
Trade Paperback
$ 15.99
590 pages

"And I knew I'd never want to be anyone else's daughter."

Being Thomas Jefferson's daughter was a privilege and a curse for Martha Jefferson. 

As Martha's mother was dying, she made both her husband and daughter make eternal promises to her.   Thomas promised to never remarry and to victimize their daughters to having a step-mother.  Martha, nicknamed Patsy, being the oldest daughter promised to care for her father and two younger sisters, one of which was an infant.

Authors Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamdie collaborated in this marvelous historical fiction novel based upon the multitude of letters kept in Jefferson's correspondence.    Giving a personal voice to Patsy is innovative in bringing to the reader a real person.   Seeing Thomas Jefferson through her eyes reveals his idealism along with his daily challenges considering the practice of being a Southern gentleman and owner of slaves while being a proponent of "all men are created equal."

America's First Daughter beautifully explains the unusual relationship with Sally Hemmings and her children.  The varying perspectives of this slave/master life in terms of life in the South, while living in France prior to their Revolution, residing in the newly formed United States, Presidential life in Washington, and life heavily in debt while maintaining a life as a Southern gentleman.

While caring for her father constantly, there was a price.  Martha, by following her father's wishes, lost the love of her life.   Added already to her responsibilities of being the mistress of the house, she married and gave birth and raising many children.  Being a daughter first resulted in her paying a price for that choice.

America's First Daughter is insightful and a much-overdue biography of a woman strongly influenced by the ideals of our country while in contrast having to maintain the status of the period, even though it went against her personal values.

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