Deborah Franklin

Deborah looks through the spyglass

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.

Deborah FranklinWhen 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.

Roberta Sloan as Deborah FranklinThroughout 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."

Chronology

1706 Ben Franklin is born in Boston, Massachusetts on January 17
1708 Deborah Read born on February 14
1723 Age 17, Ben leaves his family, running away to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1724 Ben proposes to 17-year old Deborah
1729 William Franklin, the illegitimate son of Benjamin Franklin is born.
1730 Ben marries Deborah Read Rogers
1731 Ben founds the first Circulating Library
1732 Birth of son Francis
1736 Death of son Francis
1736 Ben founds the Union Fire Company
1737 Ben appointed Postmaster of Philadelphia
1742 Ben Proposes the idea for the University of Pennsylvania
1743 Birth of daughter Sarah, known as "Sally"
1747 First writings of electrical experimentation
1752 Ben performs famous kite experiment
1763 William Franklin becomes the last Royal Governor of New Jersey
1767 Sally marries Richard Bache, the couple had eight children.
1769 Ben is elected president of the American Philosophical Society
1774 At age 66, Deborah Read Franklin dies of a stroke while Ben is abroad in London
1775 Ben is elected to Continental Congress, and submits Articles of Confederation of United Colonies
1776 Signing of the Declaration of Independence
1778 Ben negotiates and signs the Treaty of Alliance with France
1782 Ben Negotiates, with John Adams and John Jay, the Treaty of Peace with Great Britain
1787 Ben is elected president of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery
1788 William Franklin leaves America, estranged from his father because of his Tory support, never to return.
1790 At age 84, Benjamin Franklin dies in Philadelphia on April 17
1808 At age 65, Sally dies and is buried in Christ Church Burial Ground, in Philadelphia.
1813 At age 84, William Franklin, dies in England.