His failure to adequately provide for his family strained his relationships with his wife, his father-in-law and his children. Alcohol made his temper more ungovernable and eventually prompted Martha to permanently retreat to Monticello with her younger children. Martha struggled to educate her children and support herself after both men died. She depended upon her adult children to house her after her father died and Monticello was sold.
The daughter of the Nation's third President died in genteel poverty in 1836.
Jefferson, Martha and Thomas Mann Randolph also bore witness to the terrible fate of a woman with a "vicious" husband — the kind of man Abigail Adams implored John to restrain through law.
At 17, Ann Cary Randolph married 20-year-old Charles Bankhead, the son of a family friend. Bankhead's failings far exceeded those of Thomas Mann Randolph. Ann's marriage was continually marred by her husband's drunkenness and violence. Though her parents had created a trust for her upon her marriage, consisting of one-third of a 1,450-acre tract, it was subject to her husband's ineffective management. Like her father, Ann's husband was unsuccessful as a planter and turned to drink. Unlike Randolph, Charles Bankhead was openly violent toward his wife. In 1815, Jefferson recorded that Charles "had committed an assault of the greatest violence," forcing Ann to "take refuge in her mother's room." Even after Charles publicly stabbed his brother-in-law, Ann continued to live with him, bearing and raising children. She died at Monticello in 1826, shortly before her grandfather, from complications due to childbirth.
While he loved his daughter and granddaughter, Jefferson ultimately supported a model of marriage that was fundamentally unequal. Like John Adams, he recognized that the power men gained in marriage was so ingrained in American law and culture that to place limits on it would generate enormous legal, economic and political uncertainty.
Coverture cast its shadow well into the 20th century. Women only gradually gained limited property rights over the course of the 19th century, mainly through laws called the Married Women's Property Acts or Married Women's Earning Acts, which were adopted in individual states beginning in 1839. It was not until 1974 that the Equal Credit Opportunity Act guaranteed married women the right to open accounts without their husband's permission. The wage gap formerly justified by women's dependence on a husband's income has narrowed, but women continue to suffer greater loss of income and greater risk of poverty after a divorce than men do.
Abigail Adams might have predicted the slow, uneven nature of the progress of women's rights in marriage. "I cannot say that I think you very generous to the Ladies, for whilst you are proclaiming peace and good will to Men, emancipating all Nations, you insist upon retaining an absolute power over Wives," she wrote to John in a letter dated May 7, 1776.