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Publishers WeeklyScharff (Home Lands: How Women Made the West) doesn't shy from controversy in this account of five women who greatly impacted Thomas Jefferson's life and career. Jefferson's mother Jane was born into privilege and mismanaged her estate her entire life. But she was educated and motivated, and passed along a "sense of duty, respect for learning, and enjoyment of the fine things of life" to her children. Jefferson's wife, the widower Martha Wayles, was a strong woman who endured one tragedy after another; Jefferson described their 10 year marriage as "unchequered happiness." Martha was the half-sister and owner of Sally Hemings, the youngest of a family of slaves she inherited from her father. Scharff cites Hemings's son in writing that Sally's "coming of age" in her late teens was linked directly to her "becoming the mistress-or to use Madison Hemings's word, concubine-of Thomas Jefferson," who was thirty years her senior. Jefferson's fiercely devoted daughters, Patsy and Polly, denounced rumors of the affair and round out the cast of characters who populate Scharff's fascinating study. Writing with precision, control, and a delicate lyricism, Scharff unearths not only five important figures but also a society facing epic shifts. Photos.
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