Nashoba Community, Farm Rd, Memphis, TN 38134
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Frances Wright (September 6, 1795 – December 13, 1852), widely known as Fanny Wright, was a Scottish-born lecturer, writer, freethinker, feminist, abolitionist, and social reformer, who became a US citizen in 1825. The same year, she founded the Nashoba Commune in Tennessee, as a utopian community to demonstrate how to prepare slaves for eventual emancipation, but the project lasted only five years. In the late 1820s Wright was the first woman lecturer to speak publicly before gatherings of men and women in the United States about political and social-reform issues. She advocated for universal education, the emancipation of slaves, birth control, equal rights, sexual freedom, legal rights for married women, and liberal divorce laws. Wright was also vocal in her opposition to organized religion and capital punishment. The clergy and the press harshly criticized Wright's radical views. Her public lectures in the United States led to the establishment of Fanny Wright societies and her association with the Working Men's Party, organized in New York City in 1829, became so strong that its opponents called the party’s slate of candidates the Fanny Wright ticket.
Wright also wrote about political and social reforms, which included Views of Society and Manners in America (1821), a memoir of her travels that provides her observations of early democratic political and social institutions in the United States. She also outlined her position on emancipation in A Plan for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery in the United States Without Danger of Loss to the Citizens of the South (1825). In addition, Wright co-edited The New Harmony and Nashoba Gazette or Free Inquirer with Robert Dale Owen in New Harmony, Indiana, as well as the Free Enquirer in New York City in 1829, and, later, The Sentinel (renamed New York Sentinel and Working Man's Advocate). Among Wright's other published works is Course of Popular Lectures (1829), a collection of her speeches, and her final book, England, the Civilizer (1848).
Wright married French physician Guillaume D'Arusmont in Paris, France, on July 22, 1831. Wright had first met him at New Harmony, Indiana, where he was once a teacher. D'Arusmont also accompanied her to Haiti in 1830, serving as her business manager. Wright's and D'Arusmont's daughter, Francès-Sylva Phiquepal D'Arusmont, was born on April 14, 1832.
Wright, her husband, and their daughter traveled to the United States in 1835 and made several subsequent trips between the United States and Europe. Wright eventually settled in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she bought a home in 1844, and attempted to resume her career as a lecturer. Wright continued to travel the lecture circuit, but her appearances and views on social reform issues were not always welcome. She also became a supporter of President Andrew Jackson. After the mid-term political campaign of 1838, Wright suffered from a variety of health problems. She published her final book, England, the Civilizer in 1848.
Wright divorced D'Arusmont in 1850. She also fought a lengthy legal battle to retain custody of their daughter and control of her own personal wealth. The legal proceedings remained unsettled at the time of Wright's death. Wright spent her last years in quiet retirement at Cincinnati, estranged from her daughter, Francès-Sylva D'Arusmont.
Wright died on December 13, 1852, in Cincinnati, Ohio, from complications resulting from a broken hip after fall on ice outside her home. She is buried at the Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati. Her daughter, Francès-Sylva D'Arusmont, inherited the majority of Wright's wealth and property.
Wright, an early women's rights advocate and a social reformer, was the first woman to deliver public lectures to men and women on political social reform issues in the United States in the late 1820s. Her views on slavery, theology, and women's rights were considered radical for that time and attracted harsh criticism from the press and clergy.
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