Benjamin Franklin: The Man Too Fond of Women - Introduction

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Benjamin Franklin:

The Man Too Fond of Women

by Benjamin Forrest

Introduction

            Did Benjamin Franklin have a reputation of being too fond of women? Franklin has been associated with a number of women from his wife Deborah, whom he was married to for over 40 years (Tise XIX), to a family servant named Barbara, whom he was accused of having an affair with by his political opponents (Tise XVI). Franklin has been associated with over a dozen women with a number of the relationships being nothing more than a mystery, which may explain why some people have gathered this notion of Franklin being one "too fond of women."

            However, before I took a look into what historians thought about Franklin and his relationships with women, I wanted to ask the "common" person what they thought about Franklin's reputation to see if this nothing of being "too fond of women" was a popular thought among the general public.

            I was able to speak to 111 individuals and the question was simple: In three words or less, what comes to mind when I say Benjamin Franklin's reputation? The most common answers were founding father, $100 bill and electricity. 27 people gave me one of these three answers, which made up for 33.34%. In general, 108 of the individuals responded with something positive about Franklin whether it was an invention or characteristic of his; however, there were three individuals (2.7%) did respond with something far from positive. Those responses being French whores, promiscuous and pimp.

            Clearly, this was far from scholarly, but it was the perfect amount of evidence to show me that this notion did exist amongst the general public. Whether it was 27% or 2.7%, it existed and therefore needed to be explored. After researching Franklin and his relationships with women, it was clear that yes Franklin was associated with a number of women and yes he was "too fond of women," but not in a sexual way as some thought to be true. In reality, besides his wife and two romances following his wife's death, Franklin's "romances" were "a romance in the Franklin manner, hovering between risqué and the avuncular, taking a bold step forward and an ironic step backward, implying that he is tempted as a man but respectful as a friend." (Lopez 53)

            In this blog, I will explore the different relationships Benjamin Franklin had throughout his 84 years of life from his wife to his many platonic relationships to his two romances following Deborah's death. By viewing these, we will be able to see that Franklin was indeed "too fond of women" but fond of them "in the Franklin manner." (Lopez 53)

Resources:

Forrest, Benjamin. Survey of 111 Undergraduates, Friends or Co-workers Concerning Benjamin Franklin's Reputation. University Park, Pennsylvania, 15 April 2013. Unpublished Survey.

Lopez, Clause-Anne. "Three Women, Three Styles: Catherine Ray, Polly Hewson, and Georgina Shipley." Benjamin Franklin and Women. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State UP, 2000. 51-64. Print.

Tise, Larry E. Benjamin Franklin and Women. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State UP, 2000. Print.

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