Virginia Randolph Cary

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Virginia Randolph Cary (January 30, 1786 – May 2, 1852) was an American writer. She was the author of Letters on Female Character, Addressed to a Young Lady, on the Death of Her Mother (1828), an influential advice book.


Most likely she was born in Goochland County, Virginia, at Tuckahoe, the plantation of her parents, Thomas Mann Randolph (1741–1794) and his first wife, Ann Cary Randolph. Her twelve sisters and brothers included Mary Randolph, author of the influential cookbook The Virginia House-Wife (1824), and Thomas Mann Randolph, Jr. (1768–1828), who served in the House of Representatives (1803–1807) and as governor of Virginia (1819–1822). After her mother died, she lived in Albemarle County, Virginia, at Monticello with her brother and sister-in-law, the daughter of Thomas Jefferson. Her sister Judith married William Randolph's great-grandson, Richard Randolph of Bizarre. His paternal ancestors included Pocahontas, the youngest daughter of Chief Powhatan and her English-born husband John Rolfe.[1]

On 28 August 1805 she married her cousin Wilson Jefferson Cary, of Fluvanna County, Virginia. They had six children: Col. Wilson Miles Cary (1806–1877), Archibald Cary (who married Monimia Fairfax), Jane Blair Cary, Elizabeth Randolph Cary, Mary Randolph Cary (1806–1882), and Martha Jefferson Cary (who married Gouverneur Morris Jr.). Her granddaughter was Constance Cary.[2]

Cary died in Alexandria, Virginia, and is buried in Saint Paul's Episcopal Church Cemetery.


After she was widowed she published four major works:


  • Cynthia A. Kierner, "'The dark and dense cloud perpetually lowering over us': Gender and the Decline of the Gentry in Postrevolutionary Virginia," Journal of the Early Republic 20 (2000): 185–217.
  • Patrick H. Breen, ed., "The Female Antislavery Petition Campaign of 1831–32," Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 110 (2002): 377–398.

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