It takes only 5 or 6 swings of the ax to knock down this morning’s New York Times OpEd by Jill Lepore, a Harvard historian whose scholarship I have more regard for than her politics. I actually watched her give a lecture on CSPAN over the winter; learned from it, and enjoyed her manner very much. Then she lost me with the slobbering mess below. The liberal drivel in “Poor Jane’s Alamanc” is so easily wiped up, I debated whether or not to spend a minute with it never mind an hour, but here it is. In short, Mizzzz Lepore laments Ben Franklin’s cherished sister’s life as a pitious example of what will happen to you if those evil-doers, the Republicans, get their way with the Ryan budget.
April 23, 2011 • Poor Jane’s Almanac • By JILL LEPORE • Cambridge, Mass.
THE House Budget Committee chairman, Paul D. Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin, announced his party’s new economic plan this month. It’s called “The Path to Prosperity,” a nod to an essay Benjamin Franklin once wrote, called “The Way to Wealth.” Franklin, who’s on the $100 bill, was the youngest of 10 sons. Nowhere on any legal tender is his sister Jane, the youngest of seven daughters; she never traveled the way to wealth. He was born in 1706, she in 1712. Their father was a Boston candle-maker, scraping by. Massachusetts’ Poor Law required teaching boys to write; the mandate for girls ended at reading. Benny went to school for just two years; Jenny never went at all.
AF: Mizz Lepore, ‘Tis true. Women were not burning bras in the 18th, or even 19th century. Colonial America was inhospitable to women’s freedom, yes, but if applying contemporary standards to society in centuries past is the underlying structure of your thesis to follow, what’s next? A blistering essay on how evil Lincoln was for not inviting openly gay soldiers to fight in the Civil War? C’mon.
Their lives tell an 18th-century tale of two Americas. Against poverty and ignorance, Franklin prevailed; his sister did not. At 17, he ran away from home. At 15, she married: she was probably pregnant, as were, at the time, a third of all brides.
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