Main Content

Thomas Jefferson’s wife, Martha, died many years before his presidency. As a result, their eldest daughter Martha Jefferson Randolph stepped into the role of first lady and hostess when he became president.

Martha “Patsy” Jefferson was born on September 27, 1772. After receiving a private education and traveling with her father abroad, she married her distant relative Thomas Mann Randolph on February 23, 1790.1 The couple had twelve children—eleven of whom reached adulthood— and lived at Jefferson’s plantation, Monticello. Martha managed the household and enslaved workers, both at Monticello and at her husband’s plantation, Edgehill.2

Upon Thomas Jefferson’s election to the presidency, she traveled to Washington, D.C. to serve as White House hostess during the winter social seasons of 1802-1803 and 1805-1806.3 While at the White House, Martha gave birth to her eighth child, James Madison Randolph.

After Jefferson’s presidency, financial strain plagued the later years of her life. This led to the sale of Monticello and one hundred enslaved workers in 1827 following her father’s death.4 At least thirty-three other enslaved people were sold two years later. Martha also bolstered Jefferson’s legacy, working with family members to compile and edit his papers.5 She died on October 10, 1836 and is buried at Monticello.

Footnotes & Resources

  1. Martha Jefferson Randolph,” Monticello,
  2. Cynthia A. Kierner, “Martha Jefferson Randolph,” Encyclopedia Virginia,
  3. Rosie Cain, “White House Hostesses: The Forgotten First Ladies,” White House Historical Association,
  4. “Sale of Monticello,” Monticello,
  5. Cynthia A. Kierner, “Martha Jefferson Randolph,” Encyclopedia Virginia,