J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Monday, May 12, 2014

Lepore on Jane Mecom at Old North, 14 May

On Wednesday, 14 May, the Old North Church will host an illustrated lecture by Jill Lepore, professor at Harvard, on “Jane Franklin’s Spectacles.” This talk is based on Lepore’s Book of Ages, a finalist for the National Book Award.

Jane Franklin was Benjamin’s little sister. The lecture description notes she “never went to school, but she thirsted for knowledge. . . . Although married at the age of fifteen and the mother of twelve children, Jane became an astute political observer and even a philosopher of history.“ She lived her last years in a house just behind the Old North.

In early 1727 Benjamin, having run away to and reestablished himself in Philadelphia, wrote home to Jane:
I am highly pleased with the account captain Freeman gives me of you. I always judged by your behaviour when a child that you would make a good, agreeable woman, and you know you were ever my peculiar favourite. I have been thinking what would be a suitable present for me to make, and for you to receive, as I hear you are grown a celebrated beauty. I had almost determined on a tea table, but when I considered that the character of a good housewife was far preferable to that of being only a pretty gentlewoman, I concluded to send you a spinning wheel, which I hope you will accept as a small token of my sincere love and affection.
That year, Jane turned fifteen and married a neighbor named Edward Mecom. Benjamin’s spinning wheel is sometimes said to be a wedding present, but Jane didn’t get married until July. This same letter goes on to lecture her about how “modesty…makes the most homely virgin amiable and charming,” so Benjamin was probably just thinking of Jane as becoming marriageable.

This lecture is free, but the Old North Church Foundation asks for attendees to register for a seat.

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