The Ambitions of Jane Franklin

Lady Jane Franklin (1791-1875)

On December 4, 1791, Lady Jane Franklin, Tasmanian pioneer, traveler and second wife of the explorer John Franklin, was born. She was the first woman to climb Mount Wellington and to travel overland from Melbourne to Sydney. Above all Lady Franklin is remembered for the search she organized from 1850 to 1857 for Sir John Franklin’s lost Arctic expedition.

Jane Franklin was born as Jane Griffin, the second daughter of John Griffin, a liveryman and later a governor of the Goldsmith’s Company, and his wife Jane Guillemard. She was born in London, where she was raised with her sisters Frances and Mary. She was well educated, and her father being well-to-do had her education completed by much travel on the continent. As a young woman, Jane had been strongly attracted to a London physician and scientist, but nothing ever came of their relationship. She had been a friend of John Franklin’s first wife, Eleanor Anne Porden, who died early in 1825.

In 1828, Jane Griffin became engaged to John Franklin and became his wife. But, during the next three years, after Franklin was knighted, she was parted for lengthy periods from her husband who was on service in the Mediterranean. In 1836, Franklin was appointed lieutenant-governor of Tasmania and the couple had to leave for the Southern colony. Lady Franklin at once began to take an interest in the colony and did a good deal of exploring along the southern and western coast. In 1839, she became the first European woman to travel overland between Port Phillip and Sydney. Besides charitable work at the side of her husband including her encouragement to the founding of secondary schools, as e.g. Christ’s College, in 1841-42, she was the first woman to climb Mount Wellington and also the first European woman to travel overland from Hobart to Macquarie Harbour. Thus, Lady Jane Franklin gained much popularity in the Australian colonies until her husband was called back to England in 1843.

In May 1845, her husband started on his last voyage, the ill-fated British Arctic expedition of 1845. Franklin had served on three previous Arctic expeditions. His fourth and last, undertaken when he was 59, was meant to traverse the last unnavigated section of the Northwest Passage. After a few early fatalities, the two ships became icebound in Victoria Strait near King William Island in the Canadian Arctic. The entire expedition complement, including Franklin and 128 men, was lost. When it was realized back home in England that he must have come to disaster, Lady Franklin devoted herself for many years to trying to ascertain his fate. Overall, she sponsored seven expeditions to find her husband or his records between 1850 and 1875. By means of sponsorship, use of influence and by offering sizeable rewards for information about him, she instigated or supported many other searches. Her efforts made the expedition’s fate one of the most vexed questions of the decade. Ultimately evidence was found by Francis McClintock in 1859 that Sir John had died twelve years previously already in 1847. Although McClintock had found conclusive evidence that Sir John Franklin and his fellow expeditioners were dead, Lady Franklin remained convinced that their written records might remain buried in a cache in the Arctic. Until her death in 1875, Lady Franklin was obsessed with the fate of the Franklin expedition and its remains and succeeded to find sponsors for followup search expeditions. Lady Franklin was a woman of unusual character and personality. Her determined efforts, in connection with which she spent a great deal of her own money to discover the fate of her husband, incidentally added much to the world’s knowledge of the arctic regions.

At yovisto you can learn more about Lady Franklin and her efforts to rescue the expedition of her husband in Prof Penny Russel’s lecture from University of Sidney on ‘Jane Franklin’s Northwest Passage‘.

References and Further Reading:

Related Articles at Yovisto Blog:



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Relation Browser
0 Recommended Articles:
0 Recommended Articles: