Wright, Frances

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Wright, Frances

Wright, Frances (Fanny Wright), 1795–1852, Scottish-American reformer, later known as Mme Darusmont, b. Dundee, Scotland. After her first tour (1818–20) of the United States she wrote an enthusiastic account of her travels, Views of Society and Manners in America (1821). In 1824 she returned to the United States. Influenced by Robert Dale Owen, she founded Nashoba, a colony for free blacks, near Memphis, Tenn. After its failure she devoted herself to lecturing and publishing. She advocated equal rights for women, universal education, religious freedom, abolition, and birth control. In 1831 she married William P. Darusmont (or D'Arusmont); the marriage was dissolved in 1835.


See biographies by W. R. Waterman (1924) and A. J. G. Perkins and T. Wolfson (1939).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Wright, Frances


(Fanny Wright). Born Sept. 6, 1795, in Dundee, Scotland; died Dec. 13, 1852, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Figure of the working-class movement of the USA.

From 1818, except for brief intervals, Wright lived in the United States. In 1825, near Memphis, Tenn., she established a colony of former Negro slaves whose freedom had been bought with her own money (the colony broke up in 1830). At the end of the 1820’s, Wright took an active part in the Working Man’s Party, which was founded in New York. She popularized the ideas of R. Owen’s Utopian socialism and demanded the democratization of the political system of the United States and the introduction of a system of universal public education. Wright played a prominent role in antislavery agitation. She was also one of the first advocates of equal rights for women in the United States.


Waterman, W. Frances Wright. New York, 1924.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Wright, Frances (“Fanny”)

(1795–1852) abolitionist, social activist, author; born in Dundee, Scotland. Having lost both parents while a child, she was raised by relatives; she read on her own and by her twenties was writing romantic poetry and plays with progressive themes. She came to the U.S.A. in 1818 with a younger sister and had her play Altorf produced in New York City; when it failed, she traveled throughout the Northeast and then returned to Britain (1820). Her Views of Society and Manners in America (1821) became one of the best-known traveler's accounts of the day, distinguished by its almost embarrassing praise for everything in the New World. She went over to France in 1821 and began a somewhat ambiguous relationship with the aging Marquis de Lafayette, almost 40 years her senior; when he made his famous "farewell tour" of America in 1824–25, she followed him around. She stayed on in the U.S.A. and took on the cause of abolishing slavery; she purchased 640 acres near Memphis, Tenn., and set up a plantation, Nashoba, on which she intended to demonstrate a method for liberating slaves; her scheme ended in scandal, but through highly controversial lectures, she continued attacking not only slavery but also organized religion and laws forbidding marriage between the races; although she thus antagonized most Americans, the freethinking, bold-talking "Fanny Wright" gained the respect of others such as the young Walt Whitman. By 1829 she was settling in New York City; she had by this time linked up with Robert Dale Owen of the utopian community at New Harmony, Ind., and she joined him in publishing the Free Enquirer in which she promulgated her increasingly more radical views about religion, education, and other social issues. She went off to Paris in 1830, married a French doctor and reformer (1831), and in 1835 returned to the U.S.A. with him and their child, settling this time in Cincinnati, Ohio, but continuing to lecture until 1839. In her last book, England, the Civilizer (1848), she called for a sort of united nations that would impose peace on the world; in its vague theorizing, it was an instance of the idealism and impracticality that characterized so much of her life and work.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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