Meeting Report

November 17, 2013

Esther Franklin

Thomas Jefferson:
Inquiry History for Daring Delvers

Something over thirty people enjoyed Esther Franklin’s talk, which was primarily about one portion of her recently published book on Thomas Jefferson. She started by asking whether Jefferson should be regarded as an icon or as a human being. He is often regarded as an icon, but Esther has emphasized his importance as a human being, with all the complexity that accompanies that view.

Jefferson’s tombstone mentions only three of his many accomplishments—author of the Declaration of Independence, the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, and the founding of the University of Virginia. Esther gave special emphasis to the last of these three accomplishments.

Jefferson wanted to set up the University as a secular institution open to those of all faiths. At first he was only partially successful, as Thomas Cooper was denied a position solely because he was a Unitarian. Even so, the University of Virginia was quite different from William and Mary, which severely enforced Anglican doctrine and practice. Jefferson had his influence on the physical part of the University as well. He designed the library, which still stands today, basing his design on the Pantheon in Rome. In that library books were placed inside a circular exterior. It was mentioned in the discussion that followed that the partial restoration of Jefferson’s library within the Library of Congress follows the same configuration. The building of the library and the early classrooms was done during the five years immediately following the end of the War of 1812.

—Wayne Luney, Program Chair

Original Announcement

Esther’s book, Inquiry History for Daring Delvers, published in July 2012, is derived from her series of presentations on her well-researched historical novel, The Others at Monticello. It contains new materials and feelings derived from and questions asked by a number of her audiences. About a year ago (i.e., since publication), Esther gave one of her presentations at the 92nd Annual Conference of the National Council for the Social Studies in Seattle, WA.

In addition to a prologue, Inquiry History for Daring Delvers has 12 chapters, for which each title is a question:

1. How Did Women Influence His Life?
2. Sexist?
3. Was Thomas Jefferson a Religious Man?
4. Was He a Good Property Manager?
5. Who Were “The Others”?
6. Racist?
7. Education: By Whom and For Whom?
8. Literary or Political Librarian?
9. “Environmentalist”?
10. Revolutionary or Peacemaker?
11. Icon or Human Being?
12. Why Teach “Book Lover”?

Within each chapter, there are related questions, designed to foster discussion and discovery.

In addition to engaging her audience in discussion, Esther will also be quoting from the book’s Prologue and from Chapter 11.

In addition to a degree in English from the University of Utah and a California Teaching Credential from UC Berkeley, Esther has two Masters degrees—an MA (Curriculum for International Education) from Cal State Chico, and a Master of Librarianship from the University of Washington.

Space doesn’t permit a full recitation of Esther’s achievements in teaching, consulting, conference presentations, professional honors, professional publications, visiting lectureships, and more. Suffice it to say that she’s definitely an achiever.

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