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Jane Mecom (Franklin)

Also Known As: "Mecum"
Birthdate: (82)
Birthplace: Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts
Death: May 7, 1794 (82)
Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Josiah Franklin and Abiah Franklin
Wife of Edward Mecom
Mother of Mary Meacham; Josiah Mecom; Edward Mecom; Benjamin Mecom; Ebenezer Meacham and 7 others
Sister of John Franklin, Postmaster of Boston; Peter Franklin; James Franklin, I; Sarah Davenport; Ebenezer Franklin and 4 others
Half sister of Elizabeth Douse; Samuel Franklin; Hannah Cole; Josiah Franklin, Jr.; Ann Harris and 2 others

Occupation: milliner, landlady
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Jane Mecom

Benjamin Franklin is arguably the most famous American ever. His youngest sister Jane is mostly lost to history. But Harvard historian Jill Lepore found her in the letters she and her brother exchanged over their long lives. They were called Benny and Jenny and Benny wrote more letters to Jenny than he did to anyone else. Most of his survive; many of hers do not. Lepore’s new book got an excellent review in The New York Times recently and it’s already nominated for a National Book Award in nonfiction. Here & Now producer Alex Ashlock spoke to Lepore about the book.

Benjamin Franklin was the author of his own life. His youngest sister Jane was the author of other people’s lives, according to historian Jill Lepore.

She had 12 children. Many of them died as infants. Those who grew up to adulthood in many cases had children of their own, only to very soon after die and leave their children for Jane to raise. Her favorite granddaughter died in childbirth, leaving four children for Jane to take care of, in her 70s.

Lepore’s new book is called “Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin” (excerpt below). It’s the story of two 18th century lives. One we know a lot about; the other we don’t but maybe should. The book is based on decades of correspondence Ben and Jane shared. He wrote more letters to her than he wrote to anyone else.

Ben Franklin also wrote his autobiography. Jane wrote what she called her Book of Ages. Lepore says it serves as her life story.

Jane Franklin died on Wednesday May 7, 1794. She was 83. The funeral was held in her home in Boston’s North End on May 10. “Mourners must have been few,” Lepore writes. “She had outlived almost everyone she’d ever loved.”

No one really knows where she is buried.



Nothing is known of Jane’s schooling, but it must have been limited at best. Six years younger than Benjamin (1706-1790), she was 11, when he ran away to Philadelphia. Although they saw each other only occasionally during the rest of their lives, their mutual affection transcended time and distance. Their surviving correspondence is more extensive than that between Franklin and almost any other private person.

On July 27, 1727, at the age of fifteen, Jane was married to Edward Mecom (1704-1765), a Boston saddler. He was a colorless individual, poor in heath and in pocket. His major contribution to the family was the fathering of 12 children: Josiah, born in 1729, Edward, (1731), Benjamin (1732), Ebenezer (1735), Sarah (1737), Peter (1739), John (1741), a second Josiah (1743), Jane (1745), James (1746), Mary (1748), and Abiah (1751).

Until the outbreak of the Revolution, Jane Mecom’s life was almost wholly that of a housewife in a tradesman’s family of low income, preoccupied with the births, marriages, and deaths of children and grandchildren, with the struggle to provide food and clothing, and with her sons’ efforts to find careers.

The family lived with or close to her parents, who owned a group of houses at Hanover and Union streets. Here she cared for her father and mother until they died, and here she continued to live for several years, taking in boarders to eke out her husband’s slender income.

Three of her children died in infancy and others seem to have inherited, apparently from their father, physical and mental defects that brought their mother deep distress. Only 3 lived beyond their 33rd birthdays and 2 of these died insane. None of her sons was really successful in his trade, and her daughters were not much luckier in the men they married. “Sorrows roll upon me like the waves of the sea,” she wrote after the death of a daughter in 1767, but “God is sovereign, and I submit.”


A Boston Woman in Revolutionary Times

Neremy A. Stern

Princeton University The years of the American Revolution were times that tried both men's and women's souls. This article seeks to elucidate the journey of one Boston woman through these times. Recently widowed, approaching old age, and living on the precipice of poverty, she faced family strain, financial loss, and painful uncertainties during the years of political crisis and agitation. But she also showed the growing engagement of an active mind with the issues of the day and the plight of her country. The war and its aftermath saw her family shattered and her home ransacked, leaving her again and again as a threatened refugee, struggling to find a safe haven. But it also left her with an abiding patriotism and commitment to her new nation.

Jane Franklin Mecom was the youngest sister of Benjamin Franklin. She was not, in any other respect, overtly extraordinary. As a widowed, middle-aged woman of Boston, struggling to keep herself afloat with a small business and often dependent on the charity of her relations, she must have been typical of a great many women who faced the Revolutionary crisis, and engaged with it in their own way. She was intelligent and interested in her world, reading often, probably with greater political awareness in the pre-Revolutionary period than can be documented. In these things, too, there is no reason to believe she was exceptional. But Jane Mecom was remarkable in one important respect: because she was her brother's sister, many of her letters were saved. She gives a voice to a largely voiceless element of late colonial New England, allowing an insight into their largely lost experiences of America's founding era. ....

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Jane Mecom's Timeline

March 27, 1712
Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts
February 28, 1726
Age 13
Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, United States
June 4, 1729
Age 17
Boston, Suffolk , Massachusetts
Age 18
Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, United States
December 29, 1732
Age 20
Boston, MA
May 2, 1735
Age 23
Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, United States
June 28, 1737
Age 25
Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, United States
May 13, 1739
Age 27
Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts
March 31, 1741
Age 29
Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts