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Polly Baker
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    Subject of 'The Speech of Polly Baker' (1747)
    Probably resided somewhere between then-Colonial Connecticut and the city of Boston
    Was reportedly arrested five times for mothering five bastard children
    Fifth trial - and the speech given in her defense - was first recounted in a 'Gentleman's Magazine' article published (anonymously) by Benjamin Franklin
    Account was reprinted and distributed around the world as an early argument for women's rights
    Very likely was a fictional creation of Benjamin Franklin's, merely as a way of protesting the inequalities of the American legal system
    She had five children from five different men.
    There is no proof that she actually ever existed.
    In her 'speech,' she argues that she is in fact doing God's work in accordance with his command to 'go forth and multiply.'
    She also complains that she deserves 'to have a statue erected to my memory' instead of be subjected to ridicule.
    Into the 1770s, her account was still in popular reprints - particularly in Britain and France, where she was hailed as 'the first American' to call for women's rights.
    The publicity surrounding the case prompted sporadic searches through the decades to locate 'Polly,' her five children, and the Judge who proposed to her at the end of the story (each time unsuccessfully).
    Ben Franklin is said to have admitted around 1777 to have invented her as 'filler' for vacant columns in his newspaper.
    A more practical - and sordid - motivation historians have come up with is that Franklin was rationalizing. After all, he had very publicly admitted to siring an illegitimate son of his own around 1730.
    She was apparently convicted four times and whipped publicly after each conviction.
    Her 'speech' resulted in her not only being found innocent, but also her getting a marriage proposal the next day.
    Her situation was very common among lower-class women of the Colonial era.
    As such, while technically 'a hoax,' its very possible that she could have been a composite of several real women, under a fictitious name.
    She made the very succinct argument that she could do a better job of supporting her children if she wasn't being fined every time she had another one.
    She also pointed out that the men themselves had never been prosecuted, despite having impregnated her on promise of marriage, only to abandon their responsibilities.
    The account's publication was one of the earliest written criticisms of the American judicial system (a favorite subject of Franklin's).

Credit: BoyWiththeGreenHair

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