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I'm Walter Isaacson with the Aspen Institute and i'm here with bestselling author Cokie Roberts we're talking about the founding mothers in the role of women in early American society and one particularly interesting case is Benjamin Franklin his wife Deborah reed franklin and then his sister Jane Franklin meachem tell me about when Benjamin Franklin marries or at least takes to marriage a double-reed well they of course Walter you have written the definitive biography of Benjamin Fran you and I sometimes discuss the treatment of Deborah's so let's do it now he met her as a teenager and then he went off to England and she married somebody else and then that character disappeared and nobody again it's the 18th century we don't know whether he's dead or alive he's gone and so Benjamin Franklin comes back from England and moves in and Deborah's mother is there and everything everything so it becomes a common law marriage because they can't legally marry everybody accepts it it's a particularly wonderful scene in the autobiography when he straggles up market street they run away from Boston very bedraggled and his wife Deborah read his future wife devil reader standing of the door and saying he made a ridiculous figure and it's great because we have both the letters we have their their correspondence we also have the autobiography of ben franklin so we see a true American life than write her letters are not very literate but they are very expressive and which is quite wonderful and so they do marry her mother runs kind of a sundry shop and he comes into the business but he's brilliant and he becomes and he's running a print shop and basically Deborah is helping both of them actually be the businesswoman she turns out to be a very astute businesswoman and he then as a personage is assigned as the lobbyist for Pennsylvania colony to London to the Parliament so she is left to run everything she's left to run his businesses and and he's also and this is one of the things I always learned in elementary school Benjamin Franklin first Postmaster General of the United States but he wasn't in the United States he was in England and she's keeping a wonderful journal of everybody comes into the shop and we both see you know her tolerance but also her spunkiness I think she prefers the one customers the papist he's Catholic or whatever but you see all these different types of people coming into the shop and she deals with and her real spunkiness in dealing with the British nobleman who was the titular head of the Postal Service and he tried to fire one of her workers who of course was a relative and she got furious with him and told him off and told him that he was slowing down the mail service and that he was treating her impolitely and basically get lost and Franklin was very pleased with the way she ran everything and sort of said carry on and then while he was in London the Stamp Act was passed by the British and this was one of the taxes the tax laws that made the Americans start to resist the British and feel that they were not represented properly and some of Franklin's friends and neighbors felt that he had not opposed it ardently enough and they came to destroy the house and everybody said to Deborah get out get out they're going to burn down your house and she said I'm not going to choose that and she got a gun and she got some relatives and he was successful and she protected the house and everything was very proud very proud Deborah well done carry on but he wouldn't come home he wouldn't come home and here's something new and I sometimes have discussed and disagreed on he goes over to England she doesn't go with him we talked about Martha Washington making the very perilous journey from Mount Vernon up to Cambridge Massachusetts as far as i can tell Debra never spent a night of her life away from Philadelphia and maybe not even away from Market Street on Philadelphia so was it Franklin at fault or Debra at fault or was it just the arrangements that they have think it was the arrangement they had and I think it was very she was smart and she was able to manage everything but she was not adventuresome and that was really scary and going across the ocean was pretty scary I mean Abigail Adams as smart as she was and as interested as she was and what was going on in the world was frightened about making that trip and she didn't make it for many years either so it wasn't an easy thing for people to do one of the women i right about Sara Livingston J actually did make the trip with her husband who was the first ambassador to Spain and they were shipwrecked you know so it wasn't an easy thing but I think Deborah Franklin was somebody that been appreciated for what she could do but was not all that interested in tell me about Benjamin Franklin's relationship with his youngest sister so there were so many children in the friends and family you tell me how many they were known as well yeah well yes and his brother the oldest brother he went to work for his in a prince and he ran away from that and so his baby sister was really the one closest to him in age and so they grown up together and she was very admiring of him when she got married and he said that he thought he should have sent her you know a t-table something nice with the nice in tourism practical practical pedestrian present which every know would have made me furious I was like you know buying appliance instead of jewelry on Valentine's Day but but he wrote did write her many letters from Paris mainly and those are wonderful because we do get a sense of what his life was like in very frank terms so in one letter for instance he says I'm a hero here I see my image on everything i'm on mugs i'm on metals all of that and she tells him that the hardships she's having because the British are there and she's having to evacuate because they're coming and she's not sure where to go so we get a good sense of what's going on in a mirror from not just a woman's perspective but the perspective of someone who doesn't have the wherewithal to just move around easily and get from one place to another and I think one of the things we see with Benjamin Franklin and his wife Deborah Reed and his sister Jane meachem Franklin his daughter and his daughter who he doted upon is that the women really are the ones running thing when the men are running off negotiating in Paris they're running businesses they're running plantations the men could not have done what they did if the women had not done what they did I think it's just that simple because they had to have their businesses continue their farms continue that you know they had to make a living and it was left to the women to do that thank you very much cookie