Monday, October 06, 2008

Patsy and Polly

I’m back to White House hostesses – my goal is eventually cover them all since they are often overlooked.

Martha Jefferson was long deceased by the time Thomas Jefferson came to office. So Jefferson used his daughters, Patsy and Polly, as well as the wife of his Secretary of State, Dolley Madison (who I hope you all know!) to help with his social activities.

I thought I’d provide a few details on the life of Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph and Maria “Polly” Jefferson Eppes here:


Martha Jefferson Randolph, known as "Patsy" in her youth, was the eldest child of Thomas Jefferson and Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson. Educated in Philadelphia and Paris during the 1780s, she married her third cousin Thomas Mann Randolph, in 1790. The couple had 11 living children, whom Martha instructed at home. Closely following and supporting her father’s career, Martha served as "first lady" from 1802-3 and 1805-6 in the President’s House, or the White House, earning a reputation for her intellectual abilities. After Jefferson’s retirement, Martha and her children spent their time primarily at Monticello, even while Thomas Mann Randolph served in Richmond as Governor. The financial difficulties of both her father and husband were a continual strain on Martha. After Jefferson’s death in 1826, she was forced to sell Monticello and move to Tufton to live with her eldest son, Thomas Jefferson Randolph. Martha reconciled with her estranged husband shortly before his death in 1828 and lived out the rest of her life with her children in Boston, Washington, D.C., and at her Edgehill estate in Albemarle County. Upon her death, she was buried alongside her husband and father at Monticello.

Maria Jefferson, called Polly as a child, was the second of the two children of Thomas and Martha Jefferson to survive to adulthood. Following her mother's death in 1782, Maria was sent to stay with her aunt, Elizabeth Wayles Eppes. Polly became very attached to the family at Eppington, and when Jefferson arranged for the eight-year-old to join him and Martha in Paris, she wrote, "I don't want to go to France, I had rather stay with Aunt Eppes." Upon her arrival in England, Polly lived briefly with Abigail and John Adams, who were so charmed by the little girl that Mrs. Adams wrote to Jefferson that "she was the favorite of everyone in the house."
In 1797, Maria married her cousin, John Wayles Eppes, and returned to live at Eppington. Like her mother, Maria suffered from poor health; she died in 1804 at the age of twenty-five.

I hope you enjoyed this little sidebar into the lives of Jefferson's daughters.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I had a question as to the other female relatives in Jefferson's life, for instance, did he have a sister?