When I was a young girl, we had a set of World Book encyclopedias. One section of the encyclopedias included information about all of the presidents up to, and including, John F. Kennedy. Subsequent presidents were included in the annual updates we also received as part of our encyclopedia subscription. That section was one of two that I read so often that the book would fall open to the spots; the other was the section on AKC dogs.
I practically memorized everything of at least a personal nature about each president, and more importantly to this review, each first lady. So I was well aware that the wife of our third – and arguably most interesting – president had died long before Thomas Jefferson was elected to office. The role of first lady, therefore, went to his eldest daughter, Martha, known by those who loved her as Patsy.
America’s First Daughter, by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie, is a novel based on the life of Thomas Jefferson and, primarily, his daughter Patsy.
The story begins during the Revolutionary War when, according to the novel, the Jeffersons were forced to leave their home in Virginia and hide for months in a cabin in the deep woods Jefferson owned. The stress caused by the war did nothing to help the health of Jefferson’s beloved wife Martha, who died shortly after childbirth. However, prior to dying, she made her eldest daughter Patsy promise to always take care of her father, and made her husband promise to never remarry.
Well, he didn’t, though the story of his long-term relationship with his slave Sally Hemings is well documented, and a major part of this book.
The story is told through the eyes of Patsy, and seems to be well-researched and true to the facts. It is well-known that Jefferson – along with many of our early forefathers – was a slave owner, and that fact – and its inconsistency with the whole all men are created equal belief as laid forth in our Bill of Rights – drives much of the story.
It is a fairly lengthy book, and much of it moved very slowly. I can’t highly recommend it except to those thoroughly interested in U.S. history in general, and the history of our third president in particular. Still, I love period literature, and it was interesting to read about the customs and the relationships during the days following the Revolutionary War.
The book, however, reminded me just what an amazing job our forefathers did in planning our government. Thank goodness.