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From 1764 to her death in 1774, Deborah Franklin lived in “their” new house without husband Benjamin. The correspondence between them reveals several ambiguously gendered constructions of that house—ideologically, materially, and architecturally. She was “homeless” legally and conceptually. Her household variously consisted of her mother, her adopted son, her daughter, relatives, guests, borders, and servants—she permanently assumed the role of head of the household. His household consisted of his landlady, Widow Margaret Stevenson, and her daughter Polly—he could not assume his role as head of household. Moreover, as Deborah wrote her husband about turning the house into a fortress during a raid on it during Stamp Act crisis, he wrote her about the household goods; as she talked about politics, he discussed familial matters. Their permeable, even ambiguous, masculine and feminine roles reconstructed the meaning—and thereby symbolized the gendered complexity—of the eighteenth-century home.


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Gender & History

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