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Jefferson seemed to believe for some time that women were consigned to domestic duties while men were tasked food, shelter, protection, public debate, and politics. He went so far, in 1816, to declare that for men and women to cross this division and mix promiscuously in public meetings would produce "deprivation of morals and ambiguity of issue."

However, in France, he met for the first time intelligent and emancipated women who presided over the Parisian salons, debating politics and moving freely within spheres of society that were considered off-limits to women in America.

How did Jefferson's exposure to women in France influence his views of women, especially in the context of his ideal republican vision centered around the nuclear family?

  • Seems a completely legitimate question to me... FWIW... – paul garrett Oct 19 '18 at 1:04
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    Welcome to the site - I like the question you're trying to ask, but I'm distracted by the lack of citations for the quote, and by the notion that Jefferson had never met an intelligent woman before (was close friends with Abigail Adams), and you're using "emancipated" in a context that I find .... difficult. – Mark C. Wallace Oct 19 '18 at 1:13
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    The title of your question asks about Jefferson's views on both women and slavery, but the body of your question mentions only women. Can you clarify? (It is best to ask just one question at a time anyway, so perhaps remove "slavery" from the title?) – Kerry L Oct 19 '18 at 3:25
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Thomas Jefferson in France, 1787.
Source: Study.com - Thomas Jefferson as the Ambassador to France

Q: How did Thomas Jefferson's time in France influence his views of women?

A: Evidently, not much

Thomas Jefferson was in France from 1784 - 1789, first as Minister Plenipotentiary (sent by the Congress of the Confederation) along with John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, and subsequently as Minister to France following Franklin's departure (Source: Wikipedia).

Jefferson penned the following in his notes (which were used for his correspendence with Washington) during his 1787 trip through southern France and along the Canal du Midi, called the Canal du Languedoc in his day. This provides deep insights into his personal views (typical among his peers) on the roles of men and women in society, which he brought with him to France, and then evidently safely back home again to America (my emphasis added below):

May 15 BEZIERES, ARGILIES, LE SAUMAL —
From Argilies to Saumal are considerable plantations of vines. Those on the red hills to the right are said to produce good wine. No wood, no enclosures. There are sheep and good cattle. The Pyrenees are covered with snow. I am told they are so in certain parts all the year. The Canal of Languedoc along which I now travel is 6 toises wide at bottom, and 10 toises at the surface of the water, which is 1 toise deep. The barks which navigate it are 70 and 80 feet long, and 17 or 18 feet wide. They are drawn by one horse, and worked by 2 hands, one of which is generally a woman. The locks are mostly kept by women, but the necessary operations are much too laborious for them. The encroachments by the men on the offices proper for the women is a great derangement in the order of things. Men are shoemakers, tailors, upholsterers, staymakers, mantua makers, cooks, doorkeepers, housekeepers, housecleaners, bedmakers. They coëffe the ladies, and bring them to bed: the women therefore, to live are obligated to undertake the offices which they abandon. They become porters, carters, reapers, wood cutters, lock keepers, smiters on the anvil, cultivators of the earth &tc. Can we wonder if such of them as have a little beauty prefer easier courses to get their livelihood, as long as that beauty lasts? Ladies who employ men in the offices which should be reserved for their sex, are they not bawds in effect? For every man whom they thus employ, some girl, whose place he has taken, is driven to whoredom. The passage of the eight locks at Bezieres, that is from the opening of the first to the last gate, took 1 hours 33 minutes. The bark in which I go is drawn by one horse, and goes from 2 to 3 geographical miles an hour. The canal yields abundance of carp and eel. I see also small fish resembling our perch and chub. Some plants of white clover, and some of yellow on the banks of the canal near Capestang; Santolina also and a great deal of a yellow iris. Met a raft of about 350 beams 40 feet long and 12 or 15 inches in diameter, formed into 14 rafts tacked together. The extensive and numerous fields of St. Foin, in general bloom, are beautiful.

Source: Thomas Jefferson in France

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Question:
Jefferson seemed to believe for some time that women were consigned to domestic duties while men were tasked food, shelter, protection, public debate, and politics. He went so far, in 1816, to declare that for men and women to cross this division and mix promiscuously in public meetings would produce "deprivation of morals and ambiguity of issue."

However, in France, he met for the first time intelligent and emancipated women who presided over the Parisian salons, debating politics and moving freely within spheres of society that were considered off-limits to women in America.

I would argue Jefferson did not meet "intelligent and emancipated women" for the first time in Paris. He was married to a very accomplished and wealthy young lady Martha Jefferson who died giving birth to the couples Sixth child years prior to going to France. Jefferson's wife Martha ran Monticello the Jefferson family plantation while Thomas was off pursuing political ambitions. Martha was well read, a gifted artist, and wealthy in her own right before marrying Thomas.

Jefferson lived in France for 5 years between August 1784 and Sept 1789. So the quote you provided from 1814 occurs more than a decade after his return from France. I would chalk it up to Jefferson being a bit of a snob rather than to implied misogyny. Jefferson attracted, enjoyed and even raised intelligent talented and accomplished woman who stuck out in 18th century by the way they inhabited and navigated what was largely a man's world.

As for Jefferson being a snob, Jefferson was incredible well educated for his time. His education began at the age of 5 years old and took him up through the equivalence of several degrees of graduate studies. he remained at college after his initial coarse of study, pursuing advanced studys in numerous topics including languages, philosophy, theology and the law. All told Jefferson attended William and Mary College for 7 years before pursuing the law internship. Jefferson was well educated, opinionated, and dismissive of people who disagreed with him be they male or female.

You can contrast Thomas Jefferson's education with that of his fellow Virginian and contemporary George Washington. George Washington's formal education ended at the age of 11, when his father died or in the 4th grade. One kind of get's the sense of how rare it was to obtain a college degree in revolutionary war days, and even rarer to have what amounts to graduate studies.

How did Jefferson's exposure to women in France influence his views of women, especially in the context of his ideal republican vision centered around the nuclear family?

The dichotomy which was Thomas Jefferson is a mosaic of mirrors. If you want to see the very best in the founding fathers vision, morals and direction for the country; It can be found with Thomas Jefferson. However; if you want to find the very worst duplicitous scoundrel amongst the founding fathers, that too is seen in Jefferson's legacy. If you have a personal feeling about how your question should be answered; you can find support for it in Jefferson's history and writings regardless if your overall intention is to view favorable or unfavorable Jefferson's legacy.

First the negatives. Martha Washington, the widow of George Washington considered Thomas Jefferson "one of the most detestable of mankind" and his election to the White House as "the greatest misfortune our country had ever experienced" source. She said Jefferson's visit to Mount Vernon a year after Washington's death was the second worst day of her life, ranking only after her husbands death. There were many events which color'd the Washingtons opinion of Jefferson. The two men had been close earlier in life but conflicted over Shey's Rebellion, ratification of the Constitution, the office of the Presidency, relations with France, relations with Great Britain, and generally the role of government. Poison pen letters, anonymous newspaper criticisms, private jeffersonian letters made public criticizing Washington further strained their relationship. It is believed and their is considerable evidence that after Washington's death, Jefferson paid Washington's personal secretary Tobias Lear to destroy paper's, letters, and diary entries by George Washington critical of Jefferson. source

Beyond that though, I don't think there is anything to suggest Jefferson's came away from France with a new and more respectful view of emancipated women. Jefferson was always attracted to intelligent, artistic, independent and accomplished women. As I said above, Jefferson's wife Martha Jefferson was a well read, gifted musician who's wealth rivaled Jefferson's own when they married.

Martha being a young wealthy widow had many suiters. Jefferson won her over with his violin, engaging her in duets, monopolizing her attentions from her other less musically inclined suiters. After they married she ran his estate/plantation at Monticello while he pursued politics. Martha, would die after 10 years of Marriage with Thomas just a few years before Jefferson was dispatched to Paris to begin his five year residency there.

Jefferson is known for having several extra marital affairs, before meeting his wife Martha (Rebecca Lewis Burwell, Betsy Moore ) after the death of his wife ( Maria Cosway, Sally Hemmings). Jefferson's relationships ran the gambit of empowered and unempowered women.

Jefferson's propensity for extra marital affairs is explained by events occurring on his wife's deathbed. Martha Jefferson made Thomas swear not to take another wife. Perhaps this was due to her desire to historically be the only Mrs Jefferson as Thomas was already on the track to be a great man when his wife died in 1782. I also read it had to do with Martha's own experience with two step mothers growing up and the desire to spare her own daughters the experience of enduring a disinterested step mother competing for their father's attention. Martha Jefferson had their 9 year old daughter Patsy, witness Jefferson's oath, and enlisted the young girl to ensure her father kept his oath. Jefferson's daughter Patsy would become one of Jefferson's most enduring female relationships, and Jefferson would never remarry.

In France, Jefferson's primary relationship was 20 years his junior, and while brilliant, educated, and a gifted artist(painter) she was also married. Maria Luisa Caterina Cecilia Hadfield Cosway. The most lasting impression Ms Cosway had on Jefferson was his broken wrist which Benjamin Franklin said Jefferson received jumping over a hedge trying to impress the young women with his athleticism..

In addition to this, Jefferson had also brought Sally Hemmings with him to Paris and began his affair with her there in France. Jefferson and Sally Hemings had six children all but two remained in Jefferson's possession until his death at which time they were freed. The two who didn't had escaped slavery during Jefferson's lifetime.

Perhaps Jefferson's most enduring relationship with a woman was that with his daughter Patsy. Patsy who was 9 when her mother died was Jeffersons constant companion afterwards. She grew to be educated, smart and tough woman who both looked like Jefferson and thought like him too. While obviously their relationship was never romantic, it was very intimate. Patsy put her father first in her life even before her own marriage. When Jefferson died it was his daughter Patsy who took charge of his papers, edited them and was the primary crafter of her father's legacy.

To your question, I think Jefferson always liked strong, smart accomplished women. He raised one. That had less to do with the five years he spent in France given he met his wife prior to his travels there, and more to do with who Jefferson was. Not that France wasn't an inspiration on Jefferson. In general Jefferson required independence to pursue his political career. He was always attracted to strong women who could look after themselves as well as his interests while he was away. Examples of these kinds of women were his wife Martha and hid daughter Patsy. To your question, Jefferson dud love France and his time there. France was a major Jefferson inspiration. On the other hand, the fact that Jefferson kept Sally Hemings in France, and continued to keep her as chatle until his death kind of sums up the dichotomy and discussion. Jefferson was a complicated man who's private affairs really didn't support his lofty public face he shared with the world.

Sources:

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    To your question, I think Jefferson always liked strong, smart accomplished women. He raised one. That had less to do with the five years he spent in France given he met his wife prior to his travels there, and more to do with who Jefferson was. <— Agree, well said. – Kerry L Oct 20 '18 at 0:31

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