September 1, 2010

Unlucky in love

Filed under: Uncategorized — jchatoff @ 12:10 am
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Deborah Read by Benjamin Wilson, courtesy American Philosophical Society

Poor Deborah Read.  With her father’s death, they suddenly became poor and her mother had to take in boarders.  She goes and falls in love with one of them and to her delight he proposes – she is 15, he is 17.  Her mother of course has a fit, but who could blame her?  Deborah is very young, this kid has no money and no prospects – what else is a mother to do but put her foot down?

In any case. the boy is on his way to London on business.  So, two years later, when Deborah meets and agrees to marry John Rodgers, her mother has no objection.  But John Rodgers turns out to be a lot less than meets the eye – he is a debtor who, to escape prosecution, runs away to Barbados, taking Deborah’s dowry with him, but not Deborah.

Oy. Now Deborah is married, but abandoned, and not free to marry anyone else.  So when the former boarder returns to Philadelphia and renews his pursuit of Deborah, it’s unlikely her mother will utter a word.  He is entirely willing, it seems, to have Deborah as his common-law wife.

And so, on September 1, 1730, Deborah Read became Mrs. Benjamin Franklin.

The Franklins had two children, one of whom died of smallpox at the age of four, and another, Sara, who grew up to marry, bear seven children, and care for her father in his old age.

Deborah rarely appears in accounts of the great moments of Franklin’s life.  Unfortunately, she was terrified of the sea and refused to accompany her husband on his many voyages.  In fact, when she suffered a massive stroke in 1774 and died, her husband was in England.

* * *

Beirut in 1900. LoC PPD.

France created Lebanon on this date in 1926 – a delightfully nonsensical statement much like Columbus discovered America.

What France did was get the borders of their mandate redrawn so that the Mount Lebanon semi-autonomous state which had existed as part of Ottoman Syria for more than 400 years was a bit bigger – and they called it the Lebanon Republic.

The Ottomans were latecomers in any case.  For this was the home of the Phoenicians, whose ships ruled the waves, spreading human progress around the Mediterranean. They built those ships with cedars from Mount Lebanon for almost four millennia beginning about 3000 B.C. And archeologists have found evidence in Lebanon of human habitation dating back 7,000 years, before recorded human history.

After another world war, Lebanon became independent in 1946.  Its subsequent tumultuous history can in some ways be traced to those redrawn borders.

* * *

Two of our most gifted cultural icons have birthdays today – Lily Tomlin (1939) and Seiji Ozawa (1935).  Many happy returns.



  1. hi jean. love your blogs! did not know about poor deborah read and ben. thanks for the insight. it’s like being in a room and talking with you over a cup of tomato soup…xo u.


    Comment by ursel — September 1, 2010 @ 5:54 am | Reply

  2. This gives light on why my name was changed in the last few minutes to Deborah. My family is related to Mr. Franklin on my father’s side, I was told by my grandfather.


    Comment by Deborah Turk — September 1, 2010 @ 8:53 am | Reply

  3. Devilish clever of you to introduce unknown Deborah Read,and have her turn out to be Ben Franklin’s wife.
    Also thank you for this long fascinating history of Lebanon… Reading your blog certainly sharpens one’s sense of proportion concerning History.
    Interesting comments too!


    Comment by GALYA TARMU — September 1, 2010 @ 7:49 pm | Reply

  4. great read ma! oxo


    Comment by Nina — September 2, 2010 @ 5:29 pm | Reply

  5. Love the deborah – ben story and why can’t we just move a few lines get Canada and Mexico. Good pics too!


    Comment by avery zia — September 6, 2010 @ 9:15 pm | Reply

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