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Benjamin Franklin’s Sister Lost Warren Buffett’s Ovarian Lottery

February 18, 2014

Warren Buffett’s biography by Alice Schroeder describes Buffett winning the “Ovarian Lottery.”  He was blessed to be born in America and able to take advantage of the opportunities that came his way and those he created.

He talks about people in third world countries that might have the same genes and able to take advantage of opportunities that he and people like Bill Gates had, but they were relegated to menial jobs such as tugging boats by the Three Gorges Dam Project in China.  They lost the Ovarian Lottery.

I just finished an excellent book by Jill Lepore about Benjamin Franklin’s younger sister, Jane Mecom, entitled Book of Ages.  Jane obviously had similar genes, above average intelligence, an interest in reading, writing and current affairs, as her brother but because she was a woman, was relegated to caring for a family (she had 12 children), fighting battles for fiscally irresponsible sons-in-law and living life on the sidelines.  She never had a chance to fulfill any non-domestic accomplishments because opportunities for women were nonexistent.

The book is a page-turner about a remarkable sister of one of the most remarkable people of all time and, likely, the most famous man of his time in Europe and America.  The most letters Benjamin wrote to anyone was to his younger sister.  He was his father’s youngest son and she was the youngest daughter and they were the last surviving of 17 children.  He died at age 84 and she at age 82.  Jane was six years younger.

The book is well researched and while I started reading the book on loan from my local library, I purchased a copy so I could reread parts whenever I wanted and to use the large notes section as future reference sources.

The author describes what Warren Buffett calls the Ovarian Lottery.  Because of the time she grew up in, his sister never had a chance to do more than she did.  I don’t want to disparage her family activities, but we can imagine what could have come out of a sometime collaboration of this brother and sister.

One of the amazing things that struck me, and shows the love, pride and admiration of the sister for her older brother was retaining her entire life a note that Benjamin sent her when he was 21 and she 15 with his now famous epitaph.  For 67 years, through war, displacement, sometimes poverty, children’s deaths, caring for a house, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, she held on to this cherished scrap of her brother’s words.  It was discovered on her after her death.  The surviving letters she also held on to are pitiable tokens of what might have been.

In her regard, Jane, and probably us, lost the Ovarian Lottery!

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 18, 2014 6:37 pm

    Here is the epitaph:

    The Epitaph of Young Benjamin Franklin. This appears on his tombstone.

    The body of
    B. Franklin, Printer
    (Like the Cover of an Old Book
    Its Contents torn Out
    And Stript of its Lettering and Gilding)
    Lies Here, Food for Worms.
    But the Work shall not be Lost;
    For it will (as he Believ’d) Appear once More
    In a New and More Elegant Edition
    Revised and Corrected
    By the Author.

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