I have wedded the cause of human improvement, staked on it my fortune, my reputation and my life. -- Fanny Wright's epitath
Born in Scotland
, Fanny Wright became one of America's leading social reformers. She was an abolitionist
, a communalist, and the country's first outspoken feminist
. Wright condemned capital punishment
, demanded legal rights for married women, liberal divorce laws, and birth control
. She would directly influence later feminists such as Amelia Bloomer
, Susan B. Anthony
, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton
. Wright also involved herself in the early struggles of the labor movement.
Though self-educated, she wrote her first book before the age of 20, A Few Days in Athens, traveled to New York in 1818, where she saw the performance of a play she'd written (Altdorf). And upon her return to England she wrote Views of Society and Manners in America which praised the progressive nature of American democracy in contrast to the society she saw in the old world.
Her writings were looked favorably on by the Marquis de Lafayette and she accompanied him back to America in 1824 - including a stay at Monticello with Thomas Jefferson. She also visited New Harmony, a co-operative Utopian community founded by Robert Owen. New Harmony influenced her to purchase land in Tennessee and found her own community - Nashoba.
Nashoba was Wright's experiment to find a way to end slavery. She advocated free love and miscegenation (she also initiated the dress-reform that would later be taken up by Amelia Bloomer). Slaves were given incentives to work harder to earn their freedom - whereby Wright hoped to demonstrate to slave owners that ending slavery could be economically advantageous. But Wright caught malaria and when she returned to Europe to recover the community failed. She granted the slaves their freedom and paid their passage to Haiti.
Once recovered, Wright returned to America and began working with Robert Dale Owen, who by this time had taken over New Harmony from his father. She wrote many newspaper articles, lectured, and travelled. She also became pregnant and entered a brief, but disastrous marriage. In the divorce her husband gained most of her lands and money.
During her marriage Wright had stepped out of the limelight. She would never regain the public influence she once held, but she was often honored and remembered by the women who followed after her. Fanny Wright was decades and decades ahead of her time. Most of the goals she sought are now taken for granted.