C-SPAN recently featured UNM History Professor Virginia Scharff discussing her new book, The Women Jefferson Loved, at Garcia Street Books in Santa Fe.

Scharff offers a multi-generational biography revealing how the women Thomas Jefferson loved shaped the third president's ideas and his vision for the nation. Throughout his life, Thomas Jefferson constructed a seemingly impenetrable wall between his public legacy and his private life, a division maintained by his family and the several traditional biographies written about this founding father.

Scharff breaks down the barrier between Jefferson's public and private histories to offer an intriguing new portrait of this complicated and influential figure, as seen through the lives of a remarkable group of women. She brings together the stories of these diverse women, including Jefferson's mother, Jane Randolph; his wife, Martha; and her half sister, Sally Hemings, his slave mistress. They shaped the choices Jefferson made, from the selection of words and ideas in his Declaration, to the vision that powered his Louisiana Purchase.

Scharff's book is a fresh twist on American history. Scharff offers courses at the University of New Mexico including the history of women in the United States and the American West, environmental history, social theory, and writing as a historian.

A review of the book in the December 2010 issue of American History states, "This fascinating and highly readable account deepens our understanding of how Jefferson's emotional life with women, including his mother, wife, concubine, daughters and slaves, influenced his thinking and greatest public acts…Scharff has created an entertaining and insightful portrait of Jefferson, the women in his life and what women endured in the pursuit of happiness."

Scharff also serves as the director of the Center for the Southwest, which sponsors programs and events that bring scholars and the public to promote understanding of Southwestern history, culture, landscape, and environment. Scharff also enjoys a career as a mystery novelist. Under the pseudonym Virginia Swift, she has published two books: Bad Company (2002) and Brown-Eyed Girl (2000).

Media contact: Carolyn Gonzales, 277-5920; e-mail: cgonzal@unm.edu