Ben Franklin lived a pretty decent life. He was famous, after all, and is credited with electricity, and he’s sort of the Brainiac figure among the Founding Fathers, which is a nice role to occupy. (Think Beast from X-Men.)
That sort of legacy stands in stark contrast to his younger sis, Jane, who had a pretty tough go of it. As explained in historian Jill Lepore’s Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin and discussed on NPR’s Here and Now program, Jane’s legacy, as it were, lies in the endless cycle of her service to her family. From Here and Now:
“It was for me an almost unbearable thing to write about,” Lepore told me during a recent conversation at the Granary Burial Ground in Boston, where Ben and Jane’s parents are buried. “She had 12 children. Many of them died as infants. Those who grew up to adulthood in many cases had children of their own, only to very soon after die and leave their children for Jane to raise. Her favorite granddaughter died in childbirth, leaving four children for Jane to take care of, in her 70s.”
That’s not to say it wasn’t a noble existence. But it sure doesn’t sound like a particularly enjoyable one. Her brother, after all, got to spend his time playing with kites.
photo credit: aScratch, Creative Commons/flickr