Sarah Franklin Bache

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Sarah Franklin Bache
Sarah Franklin Bache1793.jpg
Sarah Franklin Bache
by John Hoppner, 1793[1]
Sarah Franklin

(1743-09-11)September 11, 1743
DiedOctober 5, 1808(1808-10-05) (aged 65)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Richard Bache (m. 1767)
Parent(s)Benjamin Franklin
Deborah Read

Sarah "Sally" Franklin Bache (September 11, 1743 – October 5, 1808) was the daughter of Benjamin Franklin and Deborah Read. She was a leader in relief work during the American Revolutionary War and frequently served as her father's political hostess, as her mother had done before her death in 1774. Sarah was also an important leader for women in the pro-independence effort in Philadelphia. She was an active member of the community until her death in 1808.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Born Sarah Franklin and known as "Sally" throughout her life, she was the only surviving child of her parents, Deborah Read and Benjamin Franklin. Their son Francis Franklin died of smallpox at age four. Also in their household was her older half-brother William Franklin, her father's illegitimate son whom her parents raised from infancy.

When Sarah was born in 1743, Benjamin Franklin was thirty-seven and intently focused on furthering his career and wealth. It is reported that Franklin was more removed from his infant daughter after she was born and didn't show much affection towards her. Scholars believe this is due to the previous loss of Francis.[3] Franklin was deep into his experimentation with electricity by the time Sarah was a young child. And by her early teenage years, Sarah's father was sent to Europe. Growing up, Sarah did not have a very close relationship with her father, who traveled often. Benjamin Franklin did not really know his daughter. He did not take the time to get to know her, the things she liked to do, or aid in her education.[4][5] It was not unusual for men during this time, particularly founding fathers, to take a more aloof approach towards their daughters' education than towards their sons' education. Daughters of founding fathers were typically given the education they would need to be good housewives as this would be their most important job. Another founding father that was fairly absent throughout the education of his daughters was Thomas Jefferson.[6]

Though later in his life Franklin began to consider men and women as more equal intellectually, he did not take the same approach to his own children and grandchildren.[5] The education Sarah received was typical for women of her status during the 18th century. She was taught reading, writing and arithmetic, as well as spinning, knitting, and embroidery.[5] Franklin also had Sarah enrolled in dance school.[3] When Franklin left for Europe in Sarah's early adolescence, he left Deborah Read to take care of the "Education of my dear child.[5] It is also possible that Sarah learned French. Benjamin Franklin once gave Sarah a copy of Samuel Richardson's Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded in a French translation to "help her with her French. She must have already read it in English."[7]

Marriage and family[edit]

Sarah married Richard Bache on October 29, 1767. At the time, Bache was a merchant in Philadelphia and New York.[2] Sarah’s family was concerned about this match, particularly her half-brother William. He wrote a letter to their father that said if Sarah married Richard Bache the couple would always be dependent on him for financial assistance.[8][4] Dr. Franklin replied that he trusted his wife’s judgment of the situation and told his wife to be frugal with their money.[8] The marriage went on without the knowledge of Sarah's father and for the next year he denied the fact that he had a son-in-law at all. Though he was not initially pleased with the marriage between his daughter and Bache, Franklin received his son-in-law "with open arms" when they finally met in 1771.[5] After the couple married, they lived in the Franklin’s house in Philadelphia along with Sarah’s mother. When Deborah Read died in 1774 of a stroke, the couple still lived in the house.[2] The couple had eight children together:[9]

  • Benjamin Franklin Bache (b. 1769, d. 1798, during the Philadelphia yellow fever epidemic). A publisher, he was jailed and awaiting trial under the Sedition Act at the time of his death. Married to Margaret Markoe. The couple had four children.[8]
  • William Franklin Bache (31 May 1773 – 1814), married Catherine Wistar. Their son was Benjamin Franklin Bache.
  • Sarah Franklin Bache (1 December 1775 – 17 August 1776)[10]
  • Eliza Franklin Bache (10 September 1777 – 1820) married John Harwood. Their son was Andrew A. Harwood.
  • Louis Franklin Bache (7 October 1779 – 4 October 1818), married Mary Ann Swift and had three children. He also had one child with his second wife, Esther Egee.[8] He was a Lt. Col. in the Pennsylvania State Militia Volunteers during the War of 1812. Assigned by Pennsylvania Gov. Snyder to defend the City of Philadelphia against the British.[11]
  • Deborah Franklin Bache (1 October 1781 – 12 February 1863 ) married William J. Duane, a lawyer who was appointed as the 11th United States Secretary of the Treasury.
  • Richard Franklin Bache (11 March 1784 – 17 March 1848), married Sophia Durrell Dallas, the eldest daughter of Arabella Maria Smith and Alexander J. Dallas. Bache, Jr. became a politician in Texas.
  • Sarah Franklin Bache (12 September 1788 – 6 October 1863), married Thomas Sergeant (1782–1860), who later was appointed as an associate justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and postmaster of Philadelphia.[12]

Revolutionary War Years[edit]

Sarah Bache was an ardent Patriot during the American Revolutionary War. She did extensive relief work. While Benjamin Franklin was in France he received a letter from François Barbé-Marbois in which he wrote, “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.”[2]

She raised money for the Continental Army and is known for her involvement in the Ladies Association of Philadelphia. In 1780, under her leadership, the group made 2,200 shirts for the soldiers in the Continental Army at the army's winter quarters at Valley Forge.[7] The women often met to work together at The Cliffs, a country estate owned by Samuel R. Fisher on the Schuylkill River, two miles north of Philadelphia. After her father's return in 1775 from a diplomatic mission to France, she frequently acted as his political hostess, as her mother had died in 1774.

Sarah had to flee from Philadelphia twice during the war. The first time happened in the later months of 1776. The approaching British army forced Sarah to leave Philadelphia with her children and aunt, Jane Mecom.[7] The family moved to Chester County, Pennsylvania but returned to Philadelphia after a short time. In September 1777 the family was again forced to take refuge away from Philadelphia, this time at a friend's home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and then in Manheim Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Sarah and her family remained there until Philadelphia was evacuated the next summer.[2]

Post-Revolutionary War Life and Relationship with Benjamin Franklin[edit]

Bache loved music and reading, and was considered a skilled harpsichordist.

Sarah Franklin Bache's relationship with her father Benjamin Franklin was strained throughout her adulthood. After her marriage to Richard Bache without her father's knowledge, Benjamin Franklin had a detached attitude towards his only daughter. Evidence of this exists in The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, "which constructs an image of a strong, powerful, and savvy patriarch, written for a male audience."[13] The autobiography hardly mentions Franklin's wife, Deborah Read, and doesn't mention his daughter Sally at all.[3][13] When the American Revolutionary War ended, Benjamin returned to Philadelphia and lived with his daughter and her family for the remaining years of his life.[2]

Benjamin Franklin really enjoyed his grandchildren, particularly Benjamin Franklin Bache. When Franklin returned from England in 1775 he became enthralled by his young grandson. So much so that the following year Franklin took his young grandson back to Europe with him in spite of the protests made by Sarah.[4] "She was no match for a father who thought he knew more about bringing up boys than anyone else on Earth."[5] Sarah had to make due with the promise that her son would receive the best education possible during his time with his grandfather.

When Benjamin Franklin died in 1790, he left most of his estate to Sarah and her husband. Among the items bequeathed to her was a small portrait of Louis XVI surrounded by diamonds, which she sold to finance a trip to London.[14][15] In 1794, she and her family moved to a farm outside Philadelphia, to the north along the Delaware River.

Sarah Franklin Bache died from cancer on October 5, 1808 at sixty-four years old and is buried in Christ Church Burial Ground, Philadelphia.[2]


  1. ^ "Mrs. Richard Bache (Sarah Franklin, 1743–1808)". Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Ellet, E. F. (Elizabeth Fries), 1818-1877. (1998). Revolutionary women in the War for American Independence : a one-volume revised edition of Elizabeth Ellet's 1848 landmark series. Diamant, Lincoln., Ellet, E. F. (Elizabeth Fries), 1818-1877. Westport, Conn.: Praeger. ISBN 0275962636. OCLC 38304353.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ a b c Aldridge, Alfred O. (1967). Benjamin Franklin : philosopher and man. Lippincott. OCLC 612354380.
  4. ^ a b c Tise, Larry E. (1998). The American counterrevolution : a retreat from liberty, 1783-1800 (1st ed.). Mechanicsburg, Penn.: Stackpole Books. ISBN 0585347220. OCLC 47009059.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Benjamin Franklin and women. Tise, Larry E. University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press. 2000. ISBN 0585382778. OCLC 49414692.CS1 maint: others (link)
  6. ^ Kerrison, Catherine. (2018), Jefferson's Daughters, Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group, ISBN 9780525492450, OCLC 1050316872, retrieved 2019-05-09
  7. ^ a b c Lepore, Jill, 1966- author. Book of ages : the life and opinions of Jane Franklin. ISBN 9780307948830. OCLC 863596284.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ a b c d Baetjer, Katharine (2003). "Benjamin Franklin's Daughter". Metropolitan Museum Journal. 38: 169–11. doi:10.2307/1513106. ISSN 0077-8958.
  9. ^ The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, by Benjamin Franklin, Appendix 1
  10. ^ "Women of the American Revolution: Sarah Bache", American Revolution website
  11. ^ Carl Edward Skeen, "Citizen Soldiers in the War of 1812," Ch. 8, Federal-State Relations, Vol. 1998, p. 141,
  12. ^ Lamb's Biographical Dictionary of the United States, Volume 7, p. 16
  13. ^ a b Conger, Vivian Bruce (2018). "Reading Early American Women's Political Lives: The Revolutionary Performances of Deborah Read Franklin and Sally Franklin Bache". Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal. 16 (2): 317–352. doi:10.1353/eam.2018.0011. ISSN 1559-0895.
  14. ^ "Miniature portrait of Louis XVI - The Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary". Retrieved 2019-06-14.
  15. ^ "Sicard minaiature of Louis XVI". American Philosophical Society. Retrieved 2019-06-14.

Further reading[edit]

  • "Bache and Wistar Family Correspondence 1777-1895", Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library
  • Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
  • Article in The Evening Bulletin, November 22, 1971, on the plans to convert The Cliffs to an historic farm.
  • Article in The Evening Bulletin, January 27, 1975, on the plans to restore 16 historic houses, including The Cliffs.
  • Article in The Philadelphia Inquirer, February 23, 1986, on the burning of The Cliffs.

External links[edit]