History of Utopian Founder Frances Wright Part 2

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


FRANCES WRIGHT (1795-1852)

With Robert D. Owen (son of the founder of New Harmony), a reserved homely man with a scratchy voice, she fought for liberal causes through the New Harmony Gazette. They were in favor of birth control; Owen had invented a method involving a ribbon and a damp sponge, and their enemies called them and others in their group the "Sponge party." She herself was called many names, including "priestess of Beelzebub" and the "Great Red Harlot of infidelity."

Her relationship with Owen is ambiguous. Whatever it was, she married someone else--William Phiquepal D'Arusmont, a French specialist in female insanity and an educational innovator. For a time she took up domesticity, but it didn't last long. Soon she was back on the lecture circuit, and in 1850 she and her husband were divorced. Two years later, she died after slipping on a patch of ice in her front yard.

Her Utopia: NASHOBA

Nashoba began with six slaves, a gentle overseer named Richeson Whitby, and accountant James Richardson. From the beginning, the settlement, which was nominally communist, was plagued by poor management, heat, malaria, and insects.

Sex at Nashoba was by mutual consent, and there was no color bar. While Frances was away in Europe, Richardson wrote some pieces for an abolitionist paper, Genius of Universal Emancipation, in which he described daily happenings at Nashoba, including the fact that he and Mademoiselle Lolotte, a free black from New Orleans, were sharing a room. The last caused a scandal. On her way back from Europe, Frances Wright heard about it and fired off a letter to the Memphis Advocate defending the goings-on at Nashoba and proposing the idea that crossbreeding would be good for the South. Needless to say, this outspoken reply did not help Nashoba's cause among Southerners.

When she arrived at Nashoba, Frances found Richardson had left with Mademoiselle Lolotte, returning, he said, to "the sordid world of competition." Camilla, Frances's sister, had married Whitby, and both of them were sick. Weeds and disrepair were evident everywhere.

During the next few years, things went from bad to worse, and the community folded in 1830. Frances took the slaves to Haiti, where she freed them.

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