Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Wright, Fanny

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WRIGHT, Fanny, reformer, b. in Dundee, Scotland, 6 Sept., 1795; d. in Cincinnati, Ohio, 14 Dec., 1852. Her father was an intimate friend of Adam Smith, Dr. William Cullen, and other scientific and literary men. She became an orphan at an early age, was brought up as a ward in chancery by a maternal aunt, and early adopted the philosophy of the French materialists. She travelled in this country in 1818-'20, and was introduced by Joseph Rodman Drake in the first of the “Croaker” papers. On her return to England she published her “Views of Society and Manners in America” (London, 1821; Paris, 1822). On the invitation of Lafayette she went to Paris, and in 1825 she returned to this country. She purchased 2,400 acres in Tennessee, at Neshoba (now Memphis), and established there a colony of emancipated slaves, whose social condition she sought to elevate. Neshoba, which was held in trust for her by Gen. Lafayette, was restored by him when he discovered that her plans could not be carried out without conflicting with the laws of the state. The negroes in the colony were afterward sent to Hayti. In 1833-'6 she appeared as a public lecturer in the eastern states, where her attacks upon slavery and other social institutions attracted large audiences and led to the establishment of “Fanny Wright societies,” but her freedom of speech caused great opposition and the hostility of the press and the church. Fitz-Greene Halleck said her chief theme was “just knowledge,” which she pronounced “joost nolidge.” She then became associated with Robert Dale Owen in New Harmony, Ind., edited there “The Gazette,” and lectured in behalf of his colony, but with little success. In 1838 she visited France, and married there M. D'Arusmont, whose system of philosophy resembled her own, but she was soon separated from him, resumed her own name, and resided with her daughter in Cincinnati, Ohio, until her death. Her last years were spent in retirement. She was benevolent, unselfish, eccentric, and fearless. She published in London in 1817 “Altdorf,” a tragedy, founded on the tradition of William Tell and unsuccessfully played at the Park theatre; “A few Days in Athens, being a Translation of a Greek Manuscript discovered in Herculaneum” (London, 1822); and a “Course of Popular Lectures on Free Inquiry, Religion, Morals, Opinions, etc., delivered in the United States” (New York, 1829; 6th ed., 1836). See “Biography, Notes, and Political Letters of Fanny Wright D'Arusmont,” published by John Windt (London, 1844), and “Memoir of Fanny Wright, the Pioneer Woman in the Cause of Women's Rights,” by Amos Gilbert (Cincinnati, 1855).