In Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule, New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Chiaverini imagines the profound and complex relationship between beloved First Lady Julia Grant and the courageous, resourceful woman who was her slave.
In 1844, the shy Missouri belle Julia Dent met Lieutenant Ulysses S. Grant, a brilliant horseman and reluctant soldier. The two fell deeply in love, but four years passed before Julia’s father permitted them to wed. The groom’s abolitionist family refused to attend the ceremony.
Despite her new husband’s objections, Julia kept as her slave another Julia, known as Jule. Since childhood they had been companions and confidantes; Julia was gifted with prophetic dreams, which Jule helped her interpret. Julia secretly taught Jule to read, while Jule became her vision-impaired mistress’s eyes to the world. But beneath the gathering clouds of war, the stark distinctions between mistress and slave inevitably strained and altered their tenuous friendship.
As Ulysses rose through the ranks of the Union army during the Civil War, he often summoned Julia and their four children to join him at military headquarters. The general’s wife rarely failed to bring her favorite maid along, tearing Jule from her own beloved husband, whom she had secretly married in defiance of the law. Both women risked certain danger as they traveled to and from the field of war, but for Jule, the hazards of travel also brought knowledge and opportunity.
Even as Julia Grant championed the Union cause and advocated for suffering women on both sides of the brutal conflict, she continued to hold Jule as a slave behind federal lines—until the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation inspired Jule to make a daring bid for freedom. Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule is the first novel to chronicle the singular relationship of these two remarkable women, bound by light and shadow.