Ben Franklin’s Sister Jane Became His Favorite Correspondent

We were sitting outside at Esselon Cafe as a gentle rain began to come down as our Easter brunch concluded. I had time to flick open the NY Times and read part of a column by Jill Lepore that detailed Benjamin Franklin’s most important relationship…with his sister Jane Mecom.  Born four years after the great inventor and Declaration of Independence signer, she grew up the polar opposite of her brother. Yet the two were devoted lifelong correspondents, sharing their lives and an close relationship through letters.  Her’s were rudimentary and barely literate, and reflected her embarassment about her humble life, marked by tragedy. She buried 11 of her 12 children and her husband was a poor saddler named Edward Mecom.

But Ben never stopped supporting and loving his younger sister, whose many children kept her, like many women of the day, chained to her home and unable to advance in life.  Lepore’s theory is that cutting Planned Parenthood is doing the same thing to many modern women.  When Ben died, he gave his big house to his younger sister, and she lived there for many more years. He also donated 100 pounds to the public schools in Boston.

The house had its own sad demise. After she died there in 1794, a few years later the house was torn down to make way for a memorial to Paul Revere.