What is the life of Deborah Read Franklin, Ben Franklin's wife, including her birth, family and school?
Deborah Read Franklin was born Deborah Read Rogers in 1707. Whether she was born in Birmingham, England or in Philadelphia, where her parents moved at some point, is unknown. Her father was a London carpenter. She was the second of seven children, but, as was typical of eighteenth century colonial women, there is almost nothing known of her childhood. She received no formal education, though she may have been educated at home.
In Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography, he describes the moment when he and his future spouse first saw each other:
He [a Philadelphia baker] gave me, accordingly, three great puffy rolls. I was surpriz'd at the quantity, but took it, and, having no room in my pockets, walk'd off with a roll under each arm, and eating the other. Thus I went up Market-street as far as Fourth-street, passing by the door of Mr. Read, my future wife's father; when she, standing at the door, saw me, and thought I made, as I certainly did, a most awkward, ridiculous appearance.
The two would enter into a common-law marriage (not at all uncommon in the colonies) in 1730. The marriage was her second, her first husband, John Rogers, having absconded to the West Indies shortly before. The Franklins had two, maybe three children together (it is not certain whether William Franklin, their most famous offspring, was her child or not). She was renowned, including by her husband, for her business sense, running a bookshop along with her husband's printing enterprise. She did not, however, choose to accompany Benjamin to England in either of his long stays there, and as a result, they spent more than 15 years apart, and their letters betray less and less intimacy as time went on. She died in 1774.