Martha Jefferson Randolph by Thomas Sully
Martha Jefferson Randolph by Thomas Sully

Martha Jefferson Randolph (September 27, 1772 - October 10, 1836), 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,[1] she married her third cousin, Thomas Mann Randolph, at Monticello on February 23, 1790.[2] The couple had 11 living children, whom Martha instructed at home.[3]

Closely following and supporting her father's career, Martha earned a reputation for her intellectual abilities. She served during 1802-03 and 1805-06 as "first lady" in the President's House, later known as the White House.[4] After Jefferson's retirement, Martha and her children spent their time primarily at Monticello, even while Thomas Mann Randolph was serving in Richmond as Virginia's governor. She became Monticello's plantation mistress, in charge of running Jefferson's household from 1809 to 1826.

The financial difficulties of both her father and husband were a continual strain on Martha. After her father's death in 1826, the family was forced to sell Monticello and Martha moved 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 alternately in Boston, Washington, D.C., and Albemarle County, Virginia, where she lived at her Edgehill estate. Upon her death, she was buried alongside her husband and father at Monticello.[fn]See Shackelford, Descendants, 1:252.[/fn

Podcast: The Education of Martha Jefferson Randolph

Monticello guides Kyle Chattleton and Laura-Michal Balderson discuss the social expectations and realities women of the gentry class faced in 18th-century Virginia and how they both aligned and diverged for Jefferson's eldest daughter, Martha Jefferson Randolph.


Further Sources


  1. ^ Sarah N. Randolph, "Mrs. Thomas Mann Randolph," in Worthy Women of Our First Century, eds. Mrs. O. J. Wister and Miss Agnes Irwin (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1877), 12. For Patsy's schooling in Philadelphia, see Jefferson to Martha Jefferson, November 28, 1783, in PTJ, 6:359-61. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  2. ^ Worthy Women24; Shackelford, Descendants, 1:47. See Marriage Settlement for Martha Jefferson, February 21, 1790, in PTJ, 16:189-91. Transcription available at Founders Online. See also Jefferson to Thomas Mann Randolph, Sr., February 4, 1790, in PTJ, 16:154-55. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  3. ^ See Shackelford, Descendants, 1:50.
  4. ^ See Worthy Women35-3638-40.