History of Utopian Founder Frances Wright Part 1

About utopian founder Frances Wright, history and biography of the creator of the utopia Modern Times.

UTOPIANS--DOERS

FRANCES WRIGHT (1795-1852)

Frances Wright had at least two major love affairs in her life--one with the Marquis de Lafayette and one with the U.S.

She was Scottish, not American, however. Her mother was a gentlewoman and her father a radical. They died when she was three, and she and her sister, Camilla, were brought up, one source says, by Jeremy Bentham, an associate of utopian Robert Owen.

When Frances--or Fanny--was 16, she ran away from home to visit her uncle, who was a professor of moral philosophy at Glasgow College, and there in the college library she read about and became attached to the U.S. and the democratic concept behind it.

In 1818 she went to New York, and with the help of Wolfe Tone, son of an Irish revolutionist, she staged Altdorf, a play she had written about a Swiss revolutionary. America was all she had thought it would be, and she put down her impressions in Views of Society and Manners in America. The London Quarterly Review panned her book: "A most ridiculous and extravagant panegyric on the government and people of the U.S., accompanied by the grossest and most detestable calumnies against this country...."

But the Marquis de Lafayette had a different opinion of Views, and he wrote to Fanny telling her how good it was. That was the beginning of a strange liaison between the 66-year-old Lafayette and Fanny, still a young women in her 20s. No one knows if they were actually lovers, but in 1821 she moved into his house, the Chateau le Grange, where she became his constant companion. When he was invited to the U.S. in 1823, she begged him to make their relationship legitimate by either adopting or marrying her so she could openly travel with him. He refused to do either, but she came along anyway.

On the trip, she visited Robert Owen's New Harmony and became interested in utopianism. Horrified by slavery, she saw as the answer to it a racially integrated utopian community, where slaves could earn their freedom through working. For that purpose, in 1825 she bought some land in the Chickasaw Purchase near Memphis, then a town of 500 people. She called the colony Nashoba.

In 1828 she made the first public civic speech by a woman in the U.S., and she went on to a speaking career that lasted the rest of her life. A member of one of her audiences described her "rich and thrilling voice, the deep and almost solemn impression of her eyes... her garment of plain white muslin which hung about her in folds that recalled the drapery of a Grecian statue..." Six feet tall, with blue eyes and curly hair, she was an imposing figure who could have posed for the Statue of Liberty.

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