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Mr. Jefferson's women
Jon Kukla
Adult Nonfiction E332.2 .K85 2007

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From Publishers' Weekly:

This highly insightful study by Kukla (A Wilderness So Immense), director of the Patrick Henry Memorial Foundation, investigates Thomas Jefferson's relationships with women, from Elizabeth Moore Walker, the married neighbor with whom Jefferson may have had an affair, to Sally Hemings, the slave whose children he purportedly fathered. One of the most fascinating chapters examines the young Jefferson's failed attempts to woo a classmate's sister, Rebecca Burwell, whose rejection of his marriage proposal may have incited the misogyny found throughout his writings. Perhaps the least satisfying section studies Jefferson's relationship with his wife, Martha: since Jefferson destroyed their private correspondence after she died, Kukla's re-creation of their relationship is necessarily sketchy. The conclusion moves to a larger argument concerning Jefferson's thinking about women as citizens. Kukla shows that Jefferson was much less open to women's political participation and education than were contemporary Enlightenment thinkers, and his "definition of America as a white male polity" was "rooted in his personal discomfort with women." This is one of the most discerning and provocative studies of Jefferson in years. B&w illus., map. (Oct. 12) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

It is hard to dislike a book that, like this one, starts off with a discussion of how J. Peterman Company shirts are related to Thomas Jefferson. Kukla (director, Patrick Henry Memorial Foundation; A Wilderness So Immense: The Louisiana Purchase and the Destiny of America) not only knows his subject well but writes in a fluid and sparkling style. His basic thesis is that Thomas Jefferson grew increasingly uncomfortable with women as he aged, becoming misogynistic and predatory. Three of the four women to whom he made early romantic advances turned him down, and the fourth (his wife) hurt him by dying. Thereafter Jefferson was on his guard, not wanting to be wounded again. When he formed a relationship with his slave Sally Hemings he was in a position of power, as he owned her and could not be rejected. Kukla's research is impeccable, and his voluminous notes are a treasure trove. Nonetheless, this reviewer fails to be persuaded by his overly negative interpretation. He reaches too many conclusions based on supposition rather than solid evidence. Sure to spark heated debate, this book is recommended for academic and public libraries.-Thomas J. Schaeper, St. Bonaventure Univ., NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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