In a letter dated November 27, 1769, Deborah Read Franklin wrote to her husband Ben who was away in London, at the end noting: "I am your afeckshonet wife."
Such a sentiment may be, until now, all the general public knows about one of our nation's most compelling historical women.
When Benjamin Franklin met Deborah Read, she was a girl, but through their forty-three year marriage, she would prove herself, a woman of extraordinary ambition and character, with a natural gift for business and a deep commitment to her family.
A devoted wife and mother, Deborah cared for the house, but she also managed the family's print shop and a general store. She was Benjamin's business advisor and her wisdom helped them to grow wealthy, and allowed Benjamin to retire at the age of forty-two, to puruse his other many interests.
Historians have chronicled Benjamin Franklin's many successes and contributions to Philadelphia and the colonies. Under his leadership, the first library in the colonies was founded here, as well as the first fire department and hospital. Before long, Ben's influence saw the paving of streets and the installation of lights on those streets. This Renaissance man also proposed free schooling for the poor. He would revolutionize several other industries as well, including the postal system, and soon political life would become his major focus. He was called to England in 1757, for a second time, to represent the interests of the American Colonies.
Throughout this time, he and his wife Deborah, carried on a correspondence, over this long distance, that has been partially preserved and chronicles Deborah's metamorphosis into an extraordinary colonial woman, motivated by necessity and inner strength to educate herself and use her inherent intellectual gifts, which Ben so much admired.
Much is known about Benjamin Franklin, but relatively little about his wife. He would become known as one of the Founder Fathers of our nation, signing the Declaration of Independence and working for America's progress. It seems only fair to say, then, that Deborah Read Franklin – as you will witness today – was one of our Founding Mothers. She, too, has an important, but heretofore little appreciated, story to tell. She is the "Forgotten Founding Mother."