The Private Franklin: The Man and His Family

By Claude-Anne Lopez ; Eugenia W. Herbert | Go to book overview

VI
"The Seeds of Every Female Virtue"

My Son is my Son
'Til he takes him a Wife:
But my Daughter's my Daughter
All the Days of my Life.
--Franklin to Mather Byles, June 1, 1788

EDUCATING A BOY was one proposition, bringing up a girl an entirely different one. The question of the "Propriety of educating the Female Sex in Learning, and their Abilities for Study" had been the very first of various topics debated between the adolescent Benjamin and another "bookish Lad in the Town" when they were both trying to sharpen their wits. The other bookish lad was of the opinion that it was improper to educate women, since they were "naturally unequal to it." Benjamin took the contrary side, not so much out of conviction, as he admits, but "for Dispute sake."1 His arguments soon found their way into one of the letters he smuggled into his brother's paper under the pseudonym of Silence Dogood. He bolstered them with a quotation from Daniel Defoe protesting the barbarous custom of not educating women: "Their Youth is spent to teach them to stitch and sew, or make Baubles: they are taught to read indeed, and perhaps to write their Names, or so; and that is the Height of a Woman's Education. . . . What has the Woman done to forfeit the Priviledge of being taught? . . . Why did we not let her learn, that she might have had more Wit? Shall we upbraid Women with Folly when 'tis only the Error of this inhumane Custom that hindered them being made wiser?"2

Half a century elapsed between the moment those brave new views were expressed and the time Franklin was called upon to put them into practice with his own daughter. What did he do, when that day came,

-70-

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The Private Franklin: The Man and His Family
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents v
  • Preface ix
  • A Subjective Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Prologue: the Sweet Air of Twyford 1
  • I - Son and Sibling 5
  • II - Errata Committed, Errata Corrected 16
  • III - Industry, Frugality, Fertility 30
  • IV - Out of the Home and into the World 42
  • V - "Much of a Beau" 59
  • VI - "The Seeds of Every Female Virtue" 70
  • VII - London 78
  • VIII - Homecoming, Homesickness 93
  • IX - Faith or Deeds? 104
  • X - The Dream and the Nightmare 116
  • XI - Father of the Bride 135
  • XII - The Patriarch of Craven Street 149
  • XIII - "Sorrows Roll Upon Me like The, Waves of the Sea" 158
  • XIV - "Your a Feck Shonet Wife" 166
  • XV - Steering Through Storms 176
  • XVI - "You Are a Thorough Courtier" 190
  • XVII - Tug of War 200
  • XVIII - No Watch for Benny, No Feathers for Sally 218
  • XIX - "Temple, is My Right Hand" 236
  • XX - "Nothing Has Ever Hurt Me So Much" 253
  • XXI - Indian Summer 266
  • XXII - From Seine to Schuylkill 281
  • XXIII - Slaves 296
  • XXIV - "Our Little Fleet of Barques" 308
  • Bibliography 343
  • Index 351
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