Frances Wright

Lived:September 6, 1795—December 13, 1852 (aged 57)
Career:Lecturer, abolitionist, social reformer

Frances Wright was an social reformer and author. She advocated for universal education, the abolition of slavery, birth control and women's rights.

Wright was born September 6, 1795, in Dundee, Scotland. Following the death of Wright's parents when she was two years old, she and her siblings were sent to live with different relatives, with Wright going to live with her aunt and maternal grandfather in England. In 1813, she and a sister moved to Scotland to live with their uncle James Mylne, a strong opponent of slavery.

From 1818-1820, Wright and her sister traveled in the northeastern United States before returning to England. In 1824, Wright returned to the United States, becoming a U.S. citizen in 1825. In 1825 she also purchased land near Memphis, Tennessee, with the goal of proving that the institution of slavery was unprofitable. For several reasons, her experiment failed within several years and Wright freed her slaves, accompanying them to Haiti.

In the meantime, Wright had become coeditor of the New Harmony Gazette, making her one of the first women to edit a widely circulated paper in the United States. In July 1828, Wright also become one of the first women to speak publicly in front of a mixed audience. In 1829, she purchased a church near the Bowery, New York, and converted it into lecture hall and publishing house for the Free Enquirer (formerly the New Harmony Gazette). Focusing on education reform, she became a leader in the free-thought movement in New York and in the Workingman's party.

Wright returned to Europe in 1830 and in 1831 married a French physician with whom had she had traveled with to Haiti in 1829. They had a daughter in 1832 and lived quietly in Paris for several years. After returning to the United States with her family, she again became a lecturer. Discouraged by the lack of support in the United States for her views, she returned to France in 1839. She and her husband divorced in 1850. She died in Cincinnati, Ohio, on December 13, 1852.

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