4 Reasons Why I Wrote a Book on Deborah Read Franklin (Ben’s Wife)


It has been a year since was published. This is a book about Deborah Read Franklin, the common law wife of Ben Franklin. Why would anyone write a book about her? Some think she is too ordinary looking.

Reason #1 Misjudged by History.
The Smithsonian blames her for an estranged marriage and killing herson by not innoculating him for smallpox.

She is also mentioned as plain, illiterate and abandoned by her first husband.

Some think that she trapped her husband into marriage. And had a full temper. And on it goes.

But a careful read of her letters shows that she was expressive in spite of limited schooling. (Which was sadly typical of women for those times.) She loved her husband and vice versa. Ben gave her power of attorney multiple times to run the family businesses. And she was more than competent in going after overdue accounts payable, dealing with foreign currencies, and more.

Reason #2 Overlooked by History.

Although she attended Christ Church for many years. She gets a bare mention under notable burials.

While Ben was overseas, she was overseeing the Colonial postal system. There is no mention as far as I can determine at the wonderful National Postal Museum.

There are no streets, stamps, buildings, or colleges named in this Founding Mother’s honor teh best that I can tell.

She deserved her own book. Because interviews were not created yet, there are no interviews with her. (I created one in the book!)

Reason #3 Written Gaps in her Life

We don’t know a lot about her. We know a lot from Ben’s Autobiography and letters. But sadly, many of her letters are lost forever.

There are questions on when and where she was born, why she raised Ben’s illegitimate son William, her fear of the sea, and more. This allowed opportunities to write a possible narrative as to what took place.

Reason #4 Ahead of Her Time

Although she took on a traditional marriage role and raised three children (two not her own), she also

– Ran the family printing and postal businesses.
– Oversaw the building of the new family home! Sadly, this was razed in the 1800s.
– Had her own female network that included many of the bright lights of Philadelphia society.
– Was involved with local social and church causes
– Served as an entrepreneurial resource for young women.
– Although she owned slaves her entire life, she believed (possibly before her husband) that young slaves deserved an education. She was involved with the emerging Abolitionist social movement. She had a painting of Abolitionist Benjamin Lay in her home after she paying for the commission of this painting.
– She was not afraid to take on British Commander-In-Chief in getting needed postal fees!
– Rather than leaving when local citizens wrongly attacked her home, she defended it along with friends and family.

So writing about a flawed but strong personality filled with contradictions made an interesting writing challenge.

I will continue more on this in the next blog. A complete list of references can be found at teh end of the book.

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