“In Her Own Right”: Martha Jefferson Randolph

Katy Gehred is completing her first year as a MA candidate in Women’s History at Sarah Lawrence. She is originally from Beavercreek, Ohio, and she graduated from Bowling Green State University. The following is a preview of Katy’s prospective MA thesis.

Katy in front of Monticello where she worked as a guide. Her experience there sparked her interest in all things TJ.

After working as a tour guide at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello for a year, I found myself more fascinated with the women in Jefferson’s life than TJ himself. Jefferson’s daughter Martha Jefferson Randolph rarely receives much space in Jefferson-centered works, however she is a fascinating individual in her own right. Jefferson Randolph was essentially the first lady during her father’s presidential terms, simultaneously managing both her father’s and her husband’s plantation homes, and raising her 11 children. Although she herself was critical of slavery, she was in a position of authority over about 200 slaves, many of whom were her direct blood relatives. Meanwhile, she had to deal with the fallout of her father’s scandalous relationship with Sally Hemings, an enslaved woman who had served as Martha’s personal maid in the past, and who also happened to be Martha’s aunt. I’m currently working on an essay that examines Martha’s position on slavery, and how her complex relationship with her enslaved servants and relatives changed over time.

-Katy Gehred

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