Martha Jefferson - Wife of Thomas Jefferson

Martha Jefferson - Wife of Thomas Jefferson Biographies Social Studies American History Famous People

Experts on the life and times of Thomas Jefferson - at Monticello - tell us that no known drawings, images, portraits or any other illustrations of Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson survive.

This image, however, is often referred to as Thomas Jefferson's wife. It is not.

In lieu of an image, Monticello curators provide us with details about Mrs. Jefferson's appearance and mannerisms:

There are no known portraits of Martha Wayles Jefferson, and descriptions of her appearance are scant.

In his "Memoirs of a Monticello Slave" Isaac described Mrs. Jefferson as small and said the younger daughter, Mary, was pretty "like her mother".

Granddaughter Ellen Randolph Coolidge voices the family's oral history by describing her grandmother as, ". . .a very attractive person. . .a graceful, ladylike and accomplished woman."

As to her disposition, the Marquis de Chastellux described her as, "A gentle and amiable wife. . ." and her sister's husband, Robert Skipwith, assured Jefferson that she possessed, ". . .the greatest fund of good nature. . .that sprightliness and sensibility which promises to ensure you the greatest happiness mortals are capable of enjoying."

Martha, better know as "Patty," died young on the 6th of September, 1782. As the story goes, she did not want her husband to marry again.

Some of the family's servants witnessed a conversation between the Jeffersons, shortly before the end of Patty's life. She had lost her own mother and was very worried about her children being raised by a stepmother. She reportedly extracted a promise from Thomas that he would never marry again - and - that he would take care of their daughters.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5183stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 07, 2013

Updated Last Revision: Aug 24, 2019

Media Credits

Image referred to by C-SPAN, and others, as Martha Jefferson (the wife of Thomas Jefferson).  Online, courtesy C-SPAN.




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