America's First Daughter

February 22, 2018

America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie  

 

I have a deep love for the stories of our nation's founding fathers and their families. I am inspired by their courage, their passion, their dedication to their cause, and the sacrifices they made to bring our nation into being. I have been wanting to read this book for a long time, and it was everything I'd hoped it would be.

 

This is the story of Martha "Patsy" Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson's daughter. Jefferson's wife died before he took office, so Patsy came along to the White House with him, her young family in tow, to serve as first lady. The book, however, starts much earlier than that, in the days of the American revolution, and follows Patsy's life as she grows up, the daughter of a founding father. Patsy and Thomas maintained a very close relationship throughout their life- she having inherited his vast intelligence and sharp wit, and they found great joy in being together and supporting each other. 

 

Jefferson was a diplomat to France through Patsy's teenage years, and she grew into a refined Parisian lady, and her fashion sense and fine manners were something she was known for throughout her life. Patsy's father thwarted a love interest she had while in Paris with his protege, and American, but whom would not be coming back to live in America for a long time, as he desired to continue working in Europe as a diplomat. Thomas couldn't bear to live without Patsy, so at the conclusion of his assignment, they return to Virginia, she deeply heartbroken. Once home, Thomas sets up a marriage for Patsy with a cousin, and in time, Patsy learns to love her husband. His family, however, brings her and her family no end of grief, as her father-in-law, a vindictive and angry old man, disinherits Patsy's husband, leaving Patsy and her family dependent on her father.

 

As the years progress and they rescue both of Patsy's sister-in-laws from ruin, Patsy's own beloved sister dies in childbirth, crops fail, and Patsy continues to bear children year after year (she ended up having 11!), Patsy finds happiness elusive and the burden of life to be great. When her oldest beloved child marries an abusive man, he nearly takes the life of Patsy's eldest son as he tries to defend his sister against him, and in the end, the man takes Ann's life by forcing her to live near-starvation and bearing child after child for too many years.

 

There is much trial and not much happiness in Patsy and Thomas Jefferson's lives, yet the joy and support they find in each other keep them going. Finally, their marriage having degraded over the years, Patsy's husband dies, and in her mid-50's she is at last able to reconnect with the love of her youth, see her children grown and settled, and be at her father's side as he passes away, although he is in so much debt that she must leave their beloved home, Monticello, behind and start a new life in the city. This book gives you a great respect for the good man Thomas Jefferson was and for all that he accomplished, as well as bringing his amazing daughter to light. For lover's of historical fiction and admirers of the founding father's, this is a must-read! 

 

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