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News - 2017

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Benjamin Franklin House Director Márcia Balisciano reviews The Witches by Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Stacy Schiff. 

Read Dr. Balisciano's latest review - she manages to weave Benjamin Franklin into a review of Stacy Schiff's powerful book on the Salem witchcraft hysteria of 1692!

You can read her review here.

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Remembering Lady Joan Reid

It is with great sadness that we report the loss of Lady Joan Reid, who passed away on Friday, 10 November 2017.

 She was the Benjamin Franklin House’s Historian and also served for nearly 15 years as a Governor.  Born in 1932 on a train to her doctor mother in India, she fittingly lived in fascinating places, among them, Borneo, Nigeria, Kenya, Thailand and Australia.  She supported her husband Sir Bob Reid who would serve as Chairman of Shell UK among other important posts, and their three sons, of whom - and eventually their families - she was most proud.  It required a practical nature and flexibility, which she had in abundance. During those years she taught in schools, lectured on art and culture, established charities and became a careers advisor. 

 It was while serving on the Council for the Royal Society of Arts in the late 1990s that she discovered Benjamin Franklin House, which the Society had taken an interest in given Franklin's role as its first international member.  Her passion for American history, cultivated as an early Fulbright scholar at Sweet Briar College in Virginia, ensured she would become critical to the project to turn a derelict building into a must-see heritage site, recruiting Sir Bob to Chair (1999-2007) along the way.

 Her exquisite curiosity and capacity for knowledge ensured that she became Britain's leading Franklin scholar. See some of her writing for Benjamin Franklin House here.  Walter Isaacson, award winning author of Benjamin Franklin, An American Life, thanked her for "being both meticulous and unflinching in her crusade to separate facts from lore.  In doing so, she expended not only an enormous amount of intellectual energy but a huge pile of colored Post-it notes filled with suggestions."  Benjamin Franklin's Author in Residence, George Goodwin, noted in the dedication to his 2016 book, Benjamin Franklin in London, the "hours of insight about a man of so many talents and ambitions," that Lady Reid provided.

 She helped shape our Historical Experience which uses Franklin's words, live performance, sound and visual projection to tell his London story.  She delivered countless lectures on Franklin and wrote many articles highlighting the way Franklin thought and influenced humanity.  She worked with clients of neighbouring homeless charity, The Connection, to interest them in writing and recording their lives as Franklin did in his Autobiography.  She was a judge for our annual young writer's literary prize and early House science fairs.  She turned her dining room into a project office when the House was in the final stages of conservation, and she was there when the ribbon was cut by a UK Foreign Secretary and US Ambassador, to officially open the House for the first time to the public as a dynamic museum and educational facility. 

 During her career she had been Founder and Chair of the Unicorn School for Dyslexic Children, Chairman of Club L International, a Trustee of YMCA College and the London Mozart Players, Chairman of the British Federation of Women Graduates Charitable Foundation and so much more.  She was brilliant and generous in every way.  We will miss her greatly and are considering ways we can honour her legacy.

Obituary in The Scotsman

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Benjamin Franklin House Director reviews Madison's Gift: Five Partnerships that Built America by David O. Stewart

Our Director, Dr. Márcia Balisciano,  reviewed Madison's Gift: Five Partnerships that Built America by David O. Stewart for the  The Grateful American Foundation website

You can read her review here.

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Open House London

Last weekend, September 16th and 17th, along with over 800 London properties, Benjamin Franklin House took part in Open House weekend. It is always a pleasure for us to take part in this annual event, even more so this year as Open House celebrated its silver anniversary.

The House broke a visitor record this year, welcoming over 920 visitors throughout the weekend! A big thank you to our volunteers, Open House London volunteers and all that visited the House! We look forward to next year's Open House weekend.

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West Wycombe Park now open for the summer!

Be like Benjamin Franklin and spend some summer time at Sir Francis Dashwood’s West Wycombe Park, now a National Trust property.  The house is open for the summer (Sundays to Thursdays, 1 June – 31 August)     

I am in this House as much at my Ease as if it was my own, and the Gardens are a Paradise’ – Benjamin Franklin.  

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Benjamin Franklin House Director reviews Angelic Music by Corey Mead

Our Director, Dr. Márcia Balisciano, was asked by The Grateful American Foundation website, to review Angelic Music: The Story of Benjamin Franklin's Glass Armonica by Corey Mead. 

You can read her review here.

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Frankly Speaking! A Benjamin Franklin House Debate Competition in collaboration with the US Embassy in London and Bloomberg

On Friday 3 March 2017, 55 students from eleven schools across the country joined us for Frankly Speaking 2017, the annual Benjamin Franklin House debate competition in collaboration with the US Embassy and The Daughters of the American Revolution (Walter Hines Page Chapter). Teams travelled from Coventry, Liverpool, London and Leeds to join us and this year the event was hosted by Bloomberg at their London offices in Finsbury Square.

Throughout the course of the day students debated motions including ‘This House Believes social media should be limited to 30 minutes a day for under 16s’ and ‘This House Believes all police officers should carry guns’. The final debates were ‘This House believes developing countries are equally as responsible as developed countries in combatting climate change’ for Year 10 & 11 and ‘This House believes prisoners in the UK should be allowed to vote’ for Year 12 & 13. The standard throughout the day was high, with judges impressed by the debating skills and research of the students.

Adrienne Pitman from the DAR awarded first place finisher in the Year 10 & 11 age category, Samahat Ahmed, from Seven Kings High School in Ilford with her prize: a guided tour of the Houses of Parliament with the Rt Hon. The Lord Cope of Berkeley. This prize was made possible through the generous support of the Daughters of the American Revolution (Walter Hines Page Chapter).

Caleb Portnoy from the US Embassy awarded Iram Farooqui from Newham Collegiate Sixth Form Centre first place finisher in the Year 12 & 13 age category; Iram will take part in the Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellows Summer Institute at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina this summer. Joining students from across the US and Europe, she will explore American culture and politics and opportunities to improve civil society.  Team prizes were also awarded.

All participants will be invited to a reception at Benjamin Franklin House. Many thanks to the US Embassy, Bloomberg and the DAR for their partnership, support and expertise.

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Benjamin Franklin House Director reviews The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams by Louisa Thomas

Our Director, Dr. Márcia Balisciano, was asked by The Grateful American Foundation website, to review Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams by Louisa Thomas. 

You can read her review here.

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