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From the acclaimed author of A Wilderness So Immense comes a pioneering study of Thomas Jefferson’s relationships with women, both personal and political.
The author of the Declaration of Independence, who wrote the words “all men are created equal,” was surprisingly uncomfortable with woman. In eight chapters, Kukla examines the evidence for the founding father's youthful misogyny, beginning with his awkward courtship of Rebecca Burwell, who declined Jefferson's marriage proposal, and his unwelcome advances toward the wife of a boyhood friend. Subsequent chapters describe his decade-long marriage to Martha Wayles Skelton, his flirtation with Maria Cosway, and the still controversial relationship with Sally Hemings. A riveting study of a complex man, Mr. Jefferson’s Women is sure to spark debate.
“Fascinating. . . . Serious, meticulous, and well-written.” —The Boston Globe
“A fine, critical and needed study of one aspect of Jefferson’s complicated and extraordinary life.” —The Times-Picayune
“Kukla knows his period. . . . As the last few years have made abundantly clear, Thomas Jefferson was rather less sterling than his prose.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Will make people with open minds think again about what they believe.” —Richmond Times-Dispatch
“Persuasive and entertaining.” —American Heritage
“Jon Kukla has crafted a persuasive, insightful, and eminently readable interpretation of Jefferson’s poignany and occasionally mystifying relationships with women. He has captured surprising sides of his personality—sometimes masculinely conventional but often endearing. Yet Jefferson appears less beguiling than what we might expect from the inventive master of Monticello.”—Bertram Wyatt-Brown, author of The Shaping of Southern Culture: Honor, Grace, and War, 1760s–1890s
“In this lithe and lively survey, Jon Kukla carries the coversation forward in a most inviting way. How did Jefferson experience romantic love? And what can we know about his impulses? Mr. Jefferson’s Women is for those who do not shy from addressing delicate issues of early American politics and culture.”—Andrew Burstein, author of Jefferson's Secrets: Death and Desire at Monticello
“Jon Kukla provides a compelling, insightful portrait of Thomas Jefferson’s intimate life, tracing the fear of women’s power that increasingly defined the Virginian’s relationships. Kukla brilliantly links Jefferson’s personal anxietites about the disruptive influence of women to his endorsement of political and legal restraints upon those he called ‘the weaker sex.’ This is a book that every and admirer and critic of Thomas Jefferson must read.”—Carol Berkin, author of Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for America's Independence
“Jon Kulka’s sensitive portrayal of Jefferson’s realtionships with the women in his life leads to new insights not only about his infatuations and loves but also about his attitudes toward women in general—attitudes that influenced his poitical writings and his presidency. Clearly, there is much to be learned by applying the questions and techniques of women’s history to the study of ‘great white men.’”—Mary Beth Norton, author of Founding Mothers & Fathers: Gendered Power and the Forming of American Society
“Jon Kukla imaginatively brings to life a series of formidable but mysterious women who fascinated Thomas Jefferson. The result is a vivid new portrait of a founding genius who sought the ‘happiness of loving companionship’ with certain women, yet saw womanhood in general as a ‘dangerous threat to republican government and the cause of liberty.’”—Melvin Patrick Ely, author of Israel on the Appomattox: A Southern Experiment in Black Freedom from the 1790s Through the Civil War