Bache, Sarah (1743–1808)

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Bache, Sarah (1743–1808)

American patriot. Born on September 11, 1743; died in 1808; only daughter of Benjamin Franklin and Deborah Read Rogers (his common-law wife); married Richard Bache (a Philadelphia merchant); children: eight.

On September 1, 1730, Benjamin Franklin "took to wife" Deborah Read , whose first husband had deserted her. Not wanting to be saddled with the departed husband's debts, the always frugal Franklin never worked to formalize this common-law union. Especially during the early years of their relationship, Deborah Read proved to be a loving wife and valuable companion. While Franklin ran the newspaper and print shop, his wife handled the business of running the adjacent stationary shop. To this marriage Franklin brought his illegitimate son William (born in 1729 or early 1730 to an unidentified mother), and the couple had two children of their own: Francis Folger (born 1732), who died of smallpox, and Sarah (born 1743).

Sarah, who married Richard Bache and raised a family of eight children, was a source of pride and comfort to her father, especially in his old age. In 1780, during the Revolutionary War, when many soldiers of George Washington's Continental Army were barefoot and half-clad, Sarah Bache led an effort whereby over 300,000 Continental dollars were collected by Philadelphia women for soldiers' relief and allocated for dry goods. Her home was a gathering place for women who sewed while discussing financial strategy; in all, more than 2,000 women were employed by her in sewing uniforms for the army. On many occasions, she also served in the hospitals. The Marquis de Chastellux, then visiting in Philadelphia, recommended her to the ladies of Europe as a model of "domestic virtues and feminine patriotism."

Read, Deborah (1707–1774)

American colonial. Name variations: Deborah Read Rogers, Deborah Franklin. Born Deborah Read in 1707; died of a stroke in December 1774; married a man named Rogers; common-law wife of Benjamin Franklin from 1730 to 1774; children: Francis Folger (b. 1732, died of smallpox) andSarah Bache (1743–1808).

Deborah Read was courted and jilted in Philadelphia by a younger Benjamin Franklin before she entered into a commonlaw marriage with him in 1730, long before he had gained fame. Married previously, and unable to divorce her deserting husband, Read could not wed legally, but when her daughter Sarah Bache was born 13 years later, the baby was deemed legitimate by Philadelphia society.

Ben Franklin's attitudes toward women veered from amicable to patronizing. Before settling down with Read, he had been a bonvivant with two previous children born out of wedlock. One of them, William Franklin (a future governor of New Jersey), became a part of the household, though a coldness separated stepmother and stepchild. Franklin was dispatched to England in 1757 to present a case of the Pennsylvania assembly; he was there five years. On his return, he contemplated settling in England, "provided," he said, "we can persuade the good woman to cross the seas." But Read was fearful of the long voyage and preferred to stay at home. When Franklin again departed for London in 1764, it was with his son William. Deborah Read died of a stroke in December 1774 before her husband's return.

During the last few years of his life, Franklin lived with his daughter and his numerous grandchildren in a large house on Market Street in Philadelphia. There, Sarah was hostess to many prominent government leaders.