Book Review Thursday: Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin

Book of AgesShe was the youngest daughter of a family of seventeen children, never learned to spell very well (and always apologized for it), she bore twelve children and outlived eleven of them, her husband was a lout and constantly in debt and her closest family member was her brother Benjamin Franklin – so close that she thought of him as her “second self”.

Jane Franklin Mecom was born on March 27, 1712 to parents Josiah and Abiah Folger Franklin.  The heritage of the Franklin family was one of deep devotion to God.  Her grandparents, Thomas and Jane White Franklin, wrote their favorite scriptures on the walls of their house in Ecton, England.  Their son, Josiah, made his way to America with his first wife Anne and their three children.  After giving birth to their seventh child, Anne died and Josiah married Abiah, Jane’s (and Benjamin’s) mother.

Benjamin was the youngest son of Josiah and Abiah, and Jane was their youngest daughter – he was “Benny” and she “Jenny” and they had a life-long adoration for one another.  In that era of history, boys were sent off to school but girls were expected to learn the duties of wife and mother and rarely were allowed to be formally educated.  Such was Jane’s lot in life, although she did learn to read and even though she lacked formal education she craved knowledge throughout her life.

This book is one of the best history books I’ve read recently – so carefully researched that the author, Jill LePore (a Harvard American History Professor), declined to “translate” Jane’s writings and instead quoted Jane’s writings verbatim, misspellings and all (sometimes accompanied with a “translation” just to clarify).  Interspersed throughout the book is a story of Benjamin as well.  Personally, I learned so much about someone I had never heard of (Jane) and someone who I’ve heard a lot about (Benjamin).

Jane craved communication with her brother, even though his letters were often “few and far between”, especially during the years he spent abroad in England and Europe.  She wrote her own “Book of Ages”, a mere fourteen pages, recording the births and deaths of her own family (and a sad record it was).  Benjamin always took care of his youngest sister, providing for her financially, especially later in her life after her husband passed away.

You will discover that she had a quick wit, liked to gossip, was fiercely religious (a point of contention between her and Benjamin over the years), and industriously started her own business later in life.  She lived through tumultuous times, fleeing her home in Boston when the British invaded.  Jane Franklin Mecom died on May 7, 1794 of “old age, & a Cold,” her pastor John Lathrop wrote in the church records.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will look for more books by Jill LePore.  If you’re interested in early American history, then I would highly recommend the book.  While the book is almost 500 pages, about half of it are appendices and research documentation.  It is not only about the life of Jane (and Benjamin) Franklin, but there are stories of other historical events and people that make it such a well-rounded and informative book.

Rating:  ★★★★★

Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY!

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© Sharon Hall (Digging History), 2014.

 

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