Frances Wright

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Frances Wright (September 6, 1795 – December 13, 1852) also widely known as Fanny Wright, was a Scottish-born lecturer, writer, freethinker, feminist, abolitionist, and social reformer, who became a U. S. citizen in 1825.

Her father James Wright was a wealthy linen manufacturer and political radical and was also the designer of Dundee trade tokens. He knew Adam Smith and corresponded with French republicans including Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette. When James Wright and his wife Camilla Campbell died, they left three children. Fanny was orphaned at the age of three, but was left with a substantial inheritance. Fanny was taken to England and raised in the guardianship of her maternal aunt. Upon her coming of age, she returned to Scotland and spent her winters in study and writing, and her summers visiting the Scottish Highlands. By the age of 18, she had written her first book. She emigrated to the United States in 1818, and with her sister toured from 1818 to 1820. She believed in universal equality in education, and feminism. She also attacked organized religion, greed, and capitalism. Along with Robert Owen, Wright demanded that the government offer free boarding schools. She was "a fighter for the emancipation of slaves and for birth control and sexual freedom. She wanted free public education for all children over two years of age in state-supported boarding schools. She expressed in American what the utopian socialist Charles Fourier had said in France, that the progress of civilization depended on the progress of women."[1]

Wright was the co-founder of the Free Inquirer newspaper, and authored Views of Society and Manners in America (1821), A Few Days in Athens (1822), and Course of Popular Lectures (1836). The publication of Views of Society and Manners in America was the turning point in Fanny Wright's life. The book brought her new acquaintances, led to her returning to the United States, and established her as a social reformer. The book is significant as an example of the Eighteenth-century humanitarian outlook confronting the new democratic world. The book was translated into several languages and widely read. Wright became the first woman to lecture publicly before a mixed audience when she delivered an Independence Day speech at New Harmony in 1828.

In 1825, Wright founded the Nashoba Commune intending to educate slaves to prepare them for freedom. Wright hoped to build a self-sustaining multi-racial community composed of slaves, free blacks, and whites. Nashoba was partially based on Owen's New Harmony settlement, where Wright spent a significant amount of time. Nashoba lasted until Wright became ill with malaria and moved back to Europe to recover. The interim management of Nashoba was appalled by Wright's benevolent approach to the slaves living in Nashoba; rumors spread of inter-racial marriage and the Commune fell into financial difficulty, which eventually led to its demise. In 1830, Wright freed the Commune's 30 slaves and accompanied them to the newly-liberated nation of Haiti, where they could live their lives as free men and women.

The modern-day city of Germantown, Tennessee, a suburb of Memphis, is located on the land on which Wright situated her community.

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