A Finalist for the 2013 National Book Award for Nonfiction
From one of our most accomplished and widely admired historians, a revelatory portrait of Benjamin Franklin’s youngest sister and a history of history itself. Like her brother, Jane Franklin was a passionate reader, a gifted writer, and an astonishingly shrewd political commentator. Unlike him, she was a mother of twelve. Benjamin Franklin, who wrote more letters to his sister than he wrote to anyone else, was the original American self-made man; his sister spent her life caring for her children. They left very different traces behind. Making use of an amazing cache of little- studied material, including documents, objects, and portraits only just discovered, Jill Lepore brings Jane Franklin to life in a way that illuminates not only this one woman but an entire world—a world usually lost to history. Lepore’s life of Jane Franklin, with its strikingly original vantage on her remarkable brother, is at once a wholly different account of the founding of the United States and one of the great untold stories of American history and letters: a life unknown.
“From scraps and whispers, Jill Lepore has resurrected Ben Franklin’s youngest sister, the only relative who could truthfully say, ‘every line from him was a pleasure.’ The subject is tailor-made for Lepore, as artful a writer as she is exact a scholar. She delivers two marvels at once: an authentic eighteenth- century female voice, cheerful, inquisitive, and saucy, as well as an intimate portrait of Jane Franklin’s revered brother himself.” –STACY SCHIFF, author of Cleopatra
“An ardently told life story, brimming with love and loss against a background of political strife and war. Jill Lepore opens a smeared casement on the life of Jane, Benjamin Franklin’s gifted sister, confidante, and lifelong correspondent. While Benjamin was able to forge a path to greatness from his obscure beginnings, Jane, trapped by gender, starved of education, was not. The contrast between the two destinies is by turns captivating, enraging, and profoundly moving. As Lepore sheds light on this one unsung life, she brilliantly illuminates an entire era.” —GERALDINE BROOKS, author of March
“This poetic and powerful diptych takes readers on a fascinating journey. With consummate skill, Lepore moves us beyond the story of a famous brother and his woebegone sister, instead bringing both Benny and Jenny—and the relationship between them—to life. A book to ponder and prose to savor.” –LAUREL THATCHER ULRICH, author of A Midwife’s Tale
“With careful and ingenious research, Jill Lepore uncovers the surprising life of the obscure sister to a very famous man. This eloquent book reveals two remarkable siblings and their intertwined and revolutionary lives.” —ALAN TAYLOR, author of The Civil War of 1812
“This is a brilliant and delightful book! By weaving together the tales of Benjamin Franklin and his beloved little sister, Jill Lepore creates a richly textured tapestry of life in early America. deeply researched and passionately written, it brings us inside a poignant relationship between two lovable people who seemed so different but were also so connected. i devoured this book and will treasure it.” —WALTER ISAACSON, author of Steve Jobs