Lectures

Jane Franklin's Spectacles

Or, the Education of Benjamin Franklin's Sister
Jane Franklin's Spectacles

Lecture by Jill Lepore BI ’00, David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of American History, Harvard College Professor, and staff writer at the New Yorker


Benjamin Franklin famously wrote the story of his life, the story of a printer’s apprentice who runs away to become a statesman and a scientist. In this illustrated lecture, presented by the Schlesinger Library, Lepore tells the story of Franklin’s long-forgotten sister Jane and meditates on what it means to write history not from what can be found, but from what has been lost. 

Lepore’s research focuses on the histories of war and violence and of language and literacy. Much of her writing explores absences and asymmetries of evidence in the historical record. Lepore’s biography of Benjamin Franklin’s sister, Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin, will be published in October 2013. Her previous books include The Mansion of Happiness: A History of Life and Death (Knopf, 2012), a finalist for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction; The Story of America: Essays on Origins (Princeton University Press, 2012), shortlisted for the PEN Literary Award for the Art of the Essay; The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party’s Revolution and the Battle for American History (Princeton University Press, 2010), a Times Book Review Editors’ Choice; and New York Burning: Liberty, Slavery and Conspiracy in Eighteenth-Century Manhattan (Knopf, 2005), winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Award for the best nonfiction book on race and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Nancy F. Cott, the Pforzheimer Family Foundation Director of the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America and the Jonathan Trumbull Professor of History at Harvard, will introduce Lepore.  The Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe documents the lives of women of the past and present for the future, and many collections can be explored online.