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April 4, 2021

3.285 – The Two Marthas

3.285 – The Two Marthas

Year(s) Discussed: 1748-1836

Studies of Thomas Jefferson’s life often discuss the impact of the two Marthas – his wife, Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson, and his daughter, Martha Jefferson Randolph – on him, but few studies examine matters with the focus on the lives of the two women. While our knowledge of Martha Jefferson is limited, in this episode, we sift through the fragments of what we know about her before shifting to her daughter, Martha Jefferson Randolph. In addition to the narrative, part of the episode features an interview with a special guest, Dr. Cynthia A. Kierner, whose biography of Martha is an invaluable resource for learning more about a person who was educated in Paris and mingled with presidents and political leaders but is far too often relegated to the background of history. Her life has much to tell us about the role of women and families in the early republic as well as in US presidential history.

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Featured Images: “Martha Jefferson Randolph” by Thomas Sully, courtesy of Wikipedia, and “Silhouette of Martha Jefferson,” courtesy of Wikipedia

Transition Intro and Outro Music: Samples from “Bread,” prod. by LuKremBo


Special thanks to Nora Hahn for providing the intro quote for this episode, and be sure to check out her performance in Mama’s Boy at the Stagework Theatre in Houston, TX, running from 9 April to 2 May 2021. Special thanks also to the audio editor for this episode, Andrew Pfannkuche.

The transcript for this episode can be found here.

  • Birle, Ann Lucas; and Lisa A Francavilla, eds. Thomas Jefferson’s Granddaughter in Queen Victoria’s England: The Travel Diary of Ellen Wayles Coolidge, 1838-1839. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 2011.
  • Feldman, Noah. The Three Lives of James Madison: Genius, Partisan, President. New York: Random House, 2017.
  • Gaines, William H, Jr. Thomas Mann Randolph: Jefferson’s Son-in-Law. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1966.
  • Gordon-Reed, Annette. The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family. New York and London: W W Norton & Co, 2008.
  • Kierner, Cynthia A. Martha Jefferson Randolph, Daughter of Monticello: Her Life and Times. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2012.
  • Kranish, Michael. Flight from Monticello: Thomas Jefferson at War. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.
  • Kukla, Jon. Jefferson’s Women. New York: Vintage Books, 2008 [2007].
  • Landry, Jerry. The Presidencies of the United States. 2017-2021. http://presidencies.blubrry.com.
  • Malone, Dumas. Jefferson and the Rights of Man: Jefferson and His Time Volume Two. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Co, 1951.
  • Malone, Dumas. Jefferson the Virginian: Jefferson and His Time, Volume One. Boston: Little, Brown and Co, 1948.
  • “RANDOLPH, Thomas Mann 1768 – 1828.” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. https://bioguide.congress.gov/search/bio/R000051. [Last Accessed: 3 Mar 2021]

Featured Image: “Abbaye de Penthemont, rue de Grenelle, Paris” by Eugène Atget [c. 1898], courtesy of Wikipedia