Episode 022: Vivian Bruce Conger, “Deborah Read Franklin and Sally Franklin Bache: Benjamin Franklin’s Women”

Deborah Read Franklin 1758

Have you heard the saying “behind every great man stands a great woman?”

Vivian Bruce Conger, the Robert Ryan Professor in the Humanities at Ithaca College, joins us to explore the two great women that Benjamin Franklin had standing behind and beside him: his wife, Deborah Read Franklin, and his daughter, Sally Franklin Bache.



About the Show

Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.

It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.

Each episode features a conversation with an historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.

Episode Summary

vcongerBehind every great man stands a great woman. Therefore it should be no surprise that a man as great as Benjamin Franklin had two women standing behind and beside him: his wife, Deborah Read Franklin, and his daughter, Sally Franklin Bache.

Using details from her forthcoming book The Worlds of Deborah Read Franklin and Sally Franklin Bache: Transgenerational Lives in Colonial and Revolutionary Philadelphia, Vivian Bruce Conger leads us on an exploration of the lives of these remarkable women.

During our conversation, Vivian reveals who Deborah Read Franklin and Sally Franklin Bache were as women and how their lives assisted Benjamin Franklin’s work as a printer, statesman, scientist, and diplomat; what it was like for Deborah Read to be married to Benjamin Franklin; and how Franklin’s politics, as well as the experiences of the American Revolution, influenced Deborah and Sally’s involvement in politics.


What You’ll Discover

  • How Vivian came to study Deborah Read Franklin and Sally Franklin Bache
  • Overview of Deborah Read Franklin’s life
  • How Deborah Read met Benjamin Franklin
  • Why Deborah Read’s mother disapproved of Benjamin Franklin as a potential husband
  • Sally Franklin Bache, 1793Details about Benjamin Franklin and Deborah Read’s common-law marriage
  • Information about the legal procedure to enact a common-law marriage
  • Benjamin and Deborah Franklin’s “rags-to-riches” story
  • How Deborah Franklin contributed to Benjamin Franklin’s financial success
  • Deborah Franklin’s life as an independent woman during Benjamin Franklin’s stays in England
  • Deborah Franklin as landlord
  • Deborah Franklin’s experience during the Philadelphia Stamp Act Riot in September 1765
  • Why the Philadelphia Stamp Act mob targeted Benjamin Franklin’s house
  • Deborah Franklin’s political involvement in the American Revolution
  • Overview of Sally Bache Franklin’s life
  • Why Benjamin Franklin disapproved of Sally’s marriage to Richard Bache
  • Information about Sally Franklin Bache’s Patriot politics and activities during the American Revolution
  • Sally Franklin Bache’s experiences evacuating Philadelphia ahead of the British occupation
  • Information about the Ladies Association of Philadelphia and its political activities
  • Why the American Revolution politicized women like Sally Franklin Bache
  • How Sally and Richard Bache and other Philadelphia Patriots protected their property during the British occupation
  • How important it was for Benjamin Franklin that his daughter agree with his Patriot politics

Links to People, Places, and Publications


Time Warp PlainTime Warp Question

What might have happened if Deborah Read Franklin had lived as long as Benjamin?

Would she have been an active revolutionary? Gone to Paris? Would her existence have changed history?



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