Title: The Women Jefferson Loved
Author: Virginia Scharff
Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers
Release Date: 2010
About the Book: “A focused, fresh spin on Jeffersonian biography.” —Kirkus Reviews
In the tradition of Annette Gordon-Reed’s The Hemingses of Monticello and David McCullough’s John Adams, historian Virginia Scharff offers a compelling, highly readable multi-generational biography revealing how the women Thomas Jefferson loved shaped the third president’s ideas and his vision for the nation. Scharff creates a nuanced portrait of the preeminent founding father, examining Jefferson through the eyes of the women who were closest to him, from his mother to his wife and daughters to Sally Hemings and the slave family he began with her.
Jefferson did indeed love his wife Martha and his two comely daughters, Patsy and Polly. In return, he demanded their affection and reverence for him. If they did not respond in kind or frequently enough, he admonished them through self-serving letters.
In retribution, his granddaughter Ellen, a precious and precocious 5-year old, wrote him daily during his presidency to express her fond devotion, much to his annoyance.
Author Scharff, at least five times in this well-researched study, cleverly refers to Jefferson's obsession with a wall of separation: alas, his fixation with building a wall of separation between his public and private life.
Oh yes, the lovely slave girl Sally Hemings is featured prominently.
About the Author: VIRGINIA SCHARFF grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and fell in love with history at an early age. Her picaresque academic career began as a member of the first class of women to spend their undergraduate years at Yale University, before heading west, to grow up with the country. She lived in California, Wyoming, Arizona, Colorado, and Texas, where she studied journalism and history and earned her Ph.D. at the University of Arizona. She now serves as Professor of History and Director of the Center for the Southwest at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, and also as Women of the West Chair at the Autry National Center of the American West, in Los Angeles.
Virginia’s academic honors include being named Beinecke Research Fellow in the Lamar Center for Frontiers and Borders at Yale University (2008-9), a Fellow of the Society of American Historians, and Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians. She was President of the Western History Association for 2008.
A few years ago, Virginia decided to take the plunge into novel writing. Under the name of VIRGINIA SWIFT, she is author of four mystery suspense novels set in the American West, featuring professor and country singer “Mustang Sally” Alder: Brown-Eyed Girl (2000), Bad Company (2002), Bye, Bye, Love (2004), and Hello, Stranger (2006).