Throughout his time as a resident of Boston, Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin published various letters under the pseudonym Silence Dogood. While working at his brother James Franklin’s printing press, he was able to publish his letters through the newspaper The New England Courant. During the time that he was writing these letters, he was only at the mere age of sixteen. In order to avoid confrontation with his older sibling, Franklin would slip his letters under the door of the printing shop late at night. James would unknowingly publish his writings in the morning. Throughout the course of his time writing in Boston, Franklin published fourteen separate essays.
Franklin’s 11th essay addresses women who are widowed and virgins over the age of thirty proposing a relief program to assist with their hardships. Franklin writes, “…you would be pleased to form a Project for the Relief of all those penitent Mortals of the fair Sex, that are like to be punish’d with their virginity until old age, for the Pride and insolence of their youth”. ‘Silence Dogood’ believes that widowed women and virgins should be able to receive financial assistance for their struggles, but only if they follow a very strict set of standards. Franklin lists the necessities a woman must obtain if they are going to be considered eligible for this assistance—listed below are his rules for the society.
“1. That no Woman shall be admitted into the Society after she is Twenty Five Years old, who has made a Practice of entertaining and discarding Humble Servants, without sufficient Reason for so doing, until she has manifested her Repentance in Writing under her Hand. 2. No Member of the Society who has declar’d before two credible Witnesses, That it is well known she has refus’d several good Offers since the Time of her Subscribing, shall be entituled to the £500 when she comes of Age; that is to say, Thirty Years. 3. No Woman, who after claiming and receiving, has had the good Fortune to marry, shall entertain any Company with Encomiums on her Husband, above the Space of one Hour at a Time, upon Pain of returning one half the Money into the Office, for the first Offence; and upon the second Offence to return the Remainder”
This essay’s main focus is around one specific woman who goes by the name of Margaret Aftercast. When she was younger, she had many men who admired her and wanted to gain her attention, however she turned them all down. She now faces struggle everyday because of the choices she made and she feels that it makes it more difficult to live. After evaluating her story, Franklin sets up guidelines for aiding widowed and virgin women. Part of his initial plan involved the proposition that each woman should be granted £500—the equivalence of over $70,000 now. Although he believes these hardships can be solved by implementation of wealth, they truly cannot. It was a rather abrupt move on Franklin’s end to implement an idea such as this, especially during the time period in which it was published.