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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

March Is Women's History Month (Sally Hemings)

So many women have graced the pages of History. Clara Barton (started the Red Cross), Molly Brown (stoic Titanic survivor), Amelia Earhart (first female pilot to cross the Atlantic), all the way up to today's First Lady, Michelle Obama (first African American First Lady of the United States).

We are strong, independent-minded, "get 'r done" kind of people. We have had to fight for rights that were solely provided to the male species. Some of us braved opposition and even death for the love of a man that at the time was socially unacceptable to love.

As is the case of the first Women's History Month feature here at the Homemaker Diary.

Her name is Sally Hemings. She was a devoted slave on Thomas Jefferson's Poplar Forest Plantation.

This past Fall, I was given the chance to finally see for myself, the beautiful grounds and home of Monticello. I'd gone with my eleven year old on a field trip. The home is only about a thirty minute drive from where I live, but until then, I was never able to go to the home and see it's wonderful structures and learn in real time, it's grand history.

Speaking of history, here, provided by WOMEN IN HISTORY is Sally Hemings' information.



DATE OF DEATH: c. 1835


FAMILY BACKGROUND: Sally Hemings was born to slave master and sea captain, John Wayles and his slave Elizabeth "Betty" Hemings. John Wayles died the year Sally was born. Sally's family then became the property of Thomas Jefferson. Sally's eldest son, Madison Hemmings, accounts that Thomas Jeffereson is the father of Sally's children.

EDUCATION: As a maid in France, Sally received domestic servant training. It is uncertain whether or not she was literate.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Sally Hemings was the personal servant to Thomas Jefferson's daughter, Mary, later known as Maria. At the age of fourteen, Sally escorted Mary to France where Sally became very much a part of French society. Upon returning, she also became the maid to Jefferson's daughter, Martha.

After the death of Thomas Jefferson, Sally stayed at Monticello, caring for Martha and her family. Financial hardships which fell on the Jefferson family prevented Sally from leaving Monticello.


Bear, James A., Jr.. "The Hemings Family of Monticello," Virginia Cavalcade 29. 1979.

Betts, Edwin Morris, ed. Thomas Jefferson's Farm Book. 1953. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1953.

Brodie, Fawn M. Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History. New York: Naughton, 1974

Dabney, Virginius. The Jefferson Scandals: A Rebuttle. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1981.

Woodson, Byron W. A President in the Family : Thomas Jefferson, Sally Hemings, and Thomas Woodson. Westport: Praeger, 2001.


Sally Hemings - Monticello page

Sally Hemings - Gale Group Women's History Month

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