The Speech of Miss Polly Baker 1747

By Aubrey Bepko, Kaylee Lampert


The speech of Miss Polly Baker, conducted in front of a fictional court, addresses her five charges on the crime of bearing a child out of wedlock. Miss Baker is proven to have conceived five children, none bearing genes of a husband. Miss Baker has been previously charged with fines and sentenced to public punishment for these offenses. Baker challenges the court and questions the fairness of the the law with the argument of her belief that she has done nothing in the terms of morals. Towards the end of her speech, Miss Baker proclaims that instead of her receiving public punishment there should be a statue in her honor for enduring unjust punishments for crimes she believes to be inaccurate.

Miss Baker brings to light multiple personal issues she has with the charges brought upon her. She was originally planned to be wed until she became pregnant with her fiancée’s child, until he proceeded to leave her to care after the child herself. He now holds power in the government as a Magistrate. She views this as unfair, as he was given a placement of power and no punishment, where as she was left to care for the fatherless child alone and punished for his abandonment. She states having her children not as a crime because she brought five lives into the world and into a country that is asking for more members. She explains that she has never had tainted someone else’s marriage with an affair, nor does she believe God is mad at her for having her children. She emphasizes how she has increased the population in a non sinful manner and has rightfully taken part in the process of natural selection. Due to these multiple beliefs she believes the court is in the wrong and certain laws should be taken into careful consideration.

Benjamin Franklin writes this piece as a fictional story addressing the gender inequality in the justice system during the time period. Narrating as Miss Polly Baker, Franklin tells the tale of a woman battling the wrong doing of fines and public punishments Baker receives for conceiving five children while unwed. Polly Baker was viewed to the public as a sinful woman for acts in which she believed were not worthy of punishment. Franklin addresses that it is wrong for not only the woman to be the only one to go punished, but also to even punish a woman for having a child unwed when they are the ones solely caring for the child. This piece is important because of it’s address to inequality, in the instance, Miss Baker received full punishment, and the biological father of her first child went unpunished and received a position of governmental power.

One thought on “The Speech of Miss Polly Baker 1747”

  1. Your description of this piece is very good, and though it has been a while since we read these essays, the descriptions and details you use bring to light ideas I otherwise missed. Overall a very good summary.

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