In “Book of Ages”, author Jill Lepore delves into the enigmatic life of Jane Franklin. Often overlooked due to her gender, Jane was nevertheless an influential force in her elder brother’s life.
Despite the grueling amount of labor that filled Franklin’s days as a mother of 12, Jane was a brilliant writer in a time when most women were denied the luxury. Ben Franklin taught Jane to write, and through his tutelage they corresponded throughout their lives.
“Benny” and “Jenny,” as they were called in their childhoods, were extremely close, and mutually shaped each other’s political beliefs. In fact, Lepore speculates that through their tender exchanges, Benjamin was inspired to take on the alias of the widow Silence Dogood in his famous essays.
A book review by NPR highlights exciting points in Jane’s little-known life. When the revolution erupted in Boston, Jane fled before the ransacking British Army, carrying her precious written exchanges with her brother in a trunk.
While Jane lived a life on the margins, widowed and often a self-described vagrant, Lepore’s treatment of her in “Book of Ages” raises her to the level of her famous brother. Lepore says that if Franklin, in his poses and writing, “meant to be Everyman, [Jane] is everyone else.”