Sarah Franklin, daughter of Benjamin Franklin and Deborah Read Franklin, was born in 1774, and she was "carefully educated by her father." She was apparently plain in looks but had a delightful sense of humor and wit; these qualities along with her "good nature and kindliness" made her one of the most popular women in Philadelphia.
There is little written about her childhood and youth. She was 20 years old when Benjamin was sent to England to represent the Province of Pennsylvania. Some people from Pennsylvania disagreed about Benjamin's appointment and apparently made some statements about him in Christ Church, which the Franklin family attended. Sarah "was indignant and made no attempt to hide here feelings at this `outrage against decency and the feelings of her family,' and threatened to leave the church and the congregation.
Her father was on his way to England and wrote to her from Reedy Island in November 1764: "Go constantly to the church, whoever preaches. The act of devotion in the common prayer book is your principal business there; and if properly attended to will do more toward amending the heart than sermons can do; for they were composed by men of much greater piety and wisdom than our common composers of sermons pretend to be; and therefore I prefer you would never miss the prayer days. Yet I do not mean that you should despise sermons, even of preachers you dislike, for the discourse is often much sweeter than the man, as sweet and clear waters come through very dirty earth. I am more particular on this head, as you seemed to express, a little before I left, some inclination to leave our church, which I would not have you do."
There was a "delightful yet respectful affection and intimacy" between Sarah Franklin and her father. She wrote many letters to him while he served his country in England and later in France.
Sarah - or Sally as she referred to herself - married Richard Bache, a merchant in Philadelphia, in October 1767. Bache moved from Yorkshire, England, to the Colony several years before the wedding. Sarah and Richard lived with her mother until Mrs. Franklin's death. Sarah and Richard were parents of eight children, one of which died in childhood.
When Benjamin Franklin was appointed as Minister to France in October 1775, he took his eldest grandson, Temple Bache, to France with him to begin his education. Sarah wrote to her father on February 23, 1777, "We have been impatiently waiting to hear of your arrival for some time. It was seventeen weeks yesterday since you left us - a day I shall never forget. How happy we shall all be to hear you are all safe arrived and well…."
Soon after Benjamin and Temple left Philadelphia, the Bache family had to leave town because the British army had marched through New Jersey and was approaching Philadelphia. The family were able to move back home a short time after she wrote to her father but had to leave town again later. She wrote to her father on July 14, 1778, "Once more I have the happiness of addressing you from this dearly loved city, after having been kept out of it more than nine months. … I found your house and furniture in much better order than I had reason to expect from such a rapacious crew…." Major Andre' was quartered in Franklin's home during the British occupation of the city and apparently took a number of items when he left.
Depreciation in Continental currency was prevalent. Sarah wrote to her father in a "spirit of amused levity" that "she has to send her servant to market `with two baskets, one to hold her purchases and the other to carry the money with which to pay for them.'"
Sarah belong to a "movement of the patriotic ladies of Philadelphia in 1780" who furnished "food and clothing for destitute soldiers." They would collect contributions and then distribute the funds. They considered the idea of giving each soldier "a hard dollar," but General George Washington suggested that the men needed clothing, particularly shirts, more than money. The women used the money to buy fabric from which they made 2200 shirts. The shirts were cut out at Sarah's home.
A M. de Marbois wrote to Dr. Franklin the next year to share his feelings about Sarah: "If there are in Europe any women who need a model of attachment to domestic duties and love for their country, Mrs. Bache may be pointed out to them as such. She passed a part of last year in exertions to rouse the zeal of the Pennsylvania ladies, and she made on the occasion such a happy use of the eloquence which, you know, she possesses, that a large part of the American army was provided with shirts bought with their money or made by their hands. In her application for this purpose, she showed the most indefatigable zeal, the most unwearied perseverance, and a courage in asking, which surpassed even the obstinate reluctance of the Quakers in refusing."
After an absence of seven years, Benjamin returned from the Court of France in September 1785. He spent his remaining years with Sarah and her family. Sarah and her husband traveled to England in 1792 for about a year. Two years later, Richard retired from his business and bought a farm located on the Delaware River about 16 miles from Philadelphia. They lived on their farm for about 13 years before moving back to Philadelphia to obtain better medical care for Sarah. She was diagnosed as having cancer, and she passed away in October 1808 at age 64.
Facts and quotes are from Wives of the Signers: The women behind the Declaration of Independence, pp.179-192.
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