Vivian Bruce Conger presented "Not the End of an Era but a New Beginning: Deborah Franklin in the World of Commerce and Consumer Culture in Eighteenth-Century Philadelphia" at the Ninth Annual Conference of the Southern Association for Women Historians, June 9, 2012, held at Texas Christian University.
Historians recognize the importance of Deborah Franklin to her husband, that through her industry and frugality, the couple amassed a fortune large enough to retire in 1748. Scholars claim that while Benjamin Franklin thereafter became involved with civic leadership and national politics, Deborah became more spectator than collaborator. It was “the end of an era.” However, according to Conger, a thorough analysis of Deborah Franklin’s correspondence in the nearly twenty years before her death, challenges this interpretation. Conger argued that Deborah Franklin engaged in vibrant and significant economic networks of friends and family. Her paper demonstrated the complex gendered contributions Deborah Franklin made to the family economy, women’s control of household resources, and the extent and meaning of women’s consumer activities locally and in a transatlantic world of commerce.