The Speech of Miss Polly Baker

The Speech of Miss Polly Baker is a fictional piece written by Ben Franklin, which represents a court case of a woman name Polly Baker. The exact date of when this speech was written is still not known, but it was likely to be written in 1746. This piece was first published in London’s The General Advertiser on April 15, 1747. People believed that the case of Polly Baker was true because the author remained unknown until 1788, when Franklin revealed that it was he who wrote the speech.

Summary: In this speech, we are introduced to the main character Miss Polly Baker. Miss Baker has been charged five times for giving birth to children outside of wedlock; she has been punished by fines and public humiliation. She is arguing her case in front of a court of law without a lawyer because she cannot afford one. She questions the fairness of this law, states that it is unreasonable, feels that she has done nothing wrong and has not committed any crime.

She begins her argument by stating that she is not opposed to marriage and is still willing to enter a marriage, despite already having been married once to a man who betrayed her. He left her with a child; he was never punished and ended up becoming a Magistrate of the courts. She questions why she is being punished for something that is not her fault, and he is allowed to advance into a role of power within the government. She believes that God is pleased with her, in the sense that she has taken part of the natural process of increasing the population.

She finishes her argument by pointing out the increasing number of single men who do not reproduce because they are simply scared of of expensive raising a family is. She connects this to being no different than a murderer, and that they are a greater offense to the public good than she is. Baker states that the statue should be in her honor because she has increased the public good with her actions.


Analysis:  Franklin writes this speech with formal diction, but h makes it very easy to understand. Miss Polly Baker is upset and frustrated with the situation she is in, with having been taken to trial five times. If you read this from perspective of a satire, Franklin is attacking the patriarchy and how they are being hypocritical in this matter. Franklin wants his readers to easily understand the issue on the lack of women’s rights. The point of the trial in this speech is to bring up the question: should women have more right? He leaves this open for the reader to decide. The importance of this piece is to point out the gender inequality in society.

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