Monticello Education Department
Charlottesville, VA 22902
Students will examine several pages from the household account book of Martha Wayles Jefferson (Thomas Jefferson's wife) and make deductions about the role of a plantation mistress based upon their examination.
Hand out, or show on an overhead, the pages from Martha Wayles Jefferson's household account books.
Question 1: What types of things did Mrs. Jefferson seem to be responsible for, based upon her accounts?
Ans: Butchering of animals for consumption; making of tallow, soap, and candles; care of clothing and household linens; recording of vegetables planted; trading with slaves for items not grown or produced at Monticello.
Hint – be sure to point out that she was supervising much of this activity and not actually doing the slaughtering, etc.
Question 2: The entries for June and July are much less detailed than the entries for the other months. What might account for this?
Ans: Students will probably suggest things such as an absence from Monticello; too busy; sickness of Mrs. Jefferson or other family concerns.
In actuality, this time period covers the birth and death of Mr. and Mrs. Jefferson's only son, which may explain the lack of more detailed accounts. Mrs. Jefferson was known to be very weak after the birth of each of her children.
Assign the activity for homework by clicking the "Copy to Assignment" link in upper right of this lesson plan and inserting the instructions as appropriate. Give students the Class Number to access the assigment online.
Digital projector, laptop and screen