Facts and Events
Franklin proposed to Read in 1724 when he was eighteen years old, but her mother would not consent to the marriage, citing Franklin's pending trip to England and financial instability. While Franklin was away in England, having been stranded there by Sir William Keith's failure to follow through on promises of support, Read married John Rogers, who fled soon after. Because of this, Benjamin and Deborah were not free to marry formally. John Rogers disappeared into history, after spending Deborah's dowry, incurring much debt, and using the marriage to further his own schemes. Franklin states that Rogers died in the West Indies.
When Franklin returned, he and Deborah began a common-law marriage in 1730. They had two children together: Francis Folger Franklin (October 20, 1732 - November 21, 1736), who died of smallpox at age four, and Sarah Franklin Bache (September 11, 1743 – October 5, 1808), called Sally. Together they also raised William Franklin (~1730 - November 17, 1814), Franklin's illegitimate son and later Colonial Governor of New Jersey.
Benjamin Franklin did not leave London to visit Deborah even after she wrote to him in November 1769 saying her illness was due to “dissatisfied distress” because of his prolonged absence. She did not accompany him on his frequent trips to Europe due to a fear of travel over the sea. In spite of their separations, they remained loyal and supportive partners one to another for half a century. In the late 1760s and early 1770s, Deborah suffered a series of strokes that slurred her speech and memory.
Deborah Read Franklin suffered a stroke on December 14, 1774, and died on December 19, 1774, while Benjamin was on an extended trip to England. She was buried at Christ Church Burial Ground in Philadelphia, and Benjamin Franklin was buried next to her after he died in 1790.