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FRANCES WRIGHT (1795 – 1852)

Amos Gilbert. Memoir of Frances Wright (1855), frontispiece.

FRANCES WRIGHT (1795 – 1852)

After her parents died when she was two years old, Frances Wright spent her childhood with a succession of relatives in Scotland. Living with her uncle, a professor of moral philosophy at Glasgow College, she explored the college's libraries and became especially intrigued by books about the newly independent United States. A two-year tour of the United States with her sister provided Frances Wright with the material for her Views of Society and Manners in America (1821), an enthusiastic account of Americans' patriotic idealism.

Formulating a plan to emigrate to the United States and create a southern settlement on which slaves could work to earn profits toward their eventual emancipation, Frances Wright purchased a tract in Tennessee called Nashoba and recruited slaves and abolitionists to join her. The farm never produced enough to achieve her initial goal, and when she made a brief journey back to England, Nashoba provoked a national scandal after its remaining settlers proclaimed a doctrine of free love. Upon her return to the United States, she paid to transport of the slaves to Haiti (where they would be free) and moved to a utopian community in Indiana.

An anti-clerical lecture tour consolidated her unpopularity among the American middle class. In these lectures, she recommended the abolition of capital punishment and advocated women's rights, focusing especially on the need for birth control and liberalized divorce laws. Well-received in New York City, she relocated there and became a leading figure in the progressive working class politics of the day.

In New York, she met, had a child with, and married French doctor Guillaume D'Arusmont in 1831. The child died shortly, and the couple moved to Paris, where Frances Wright D'Arusmont had a daughter and removed herself somewhat from the public eye. Traveling across the Atlantic several times throughout the 1830s, she lectured occasionally, but her audiences were small and the movements in which she had involved herself had either fallen apart or found other leadership. She and her husband divorced in 1852, and he retained custody of their child. She died in Cincinnati in 1852.

Another portrait appears in:

Illustrated News, vol. 1, no. 3 (Jan. 15, 1853), p. 45.



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