Feb 242010

Frances Wright

Frances, or Franny Wright,  1795-1853 is the first woman on record to speak in public – to both men and women!  And she took a lot of heat for it.  An orphaned Scottish heiress who lost her parents at the age of two or three (sources vary), Frances led a most fascinating life – full of accomplishments and risk taking.  Self-educated (she started studying Greek when she was just a girl), she supported, wrote and spoke about birth control, women’s rights, education reform, abolition, “free love”, and she hung out with Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.  Her “radical” father had been a big Thomas Paine fan and sounds like she inherited more than just money from him.  Lucky for us.  And for Sarah Palin, whether she knows it or not.  At the age of 23, she saw her first play “Altorf” produced in New York City.  At the age of 26, her first book, a collection of letters she wrote while in America, ”Views Of Society And Manners In America” was published and she was off and running.  She hit the lecture circuit and spoke holding a copy of The Declaration of Independence, wearing only white, and like Victoria Woodhull (and Anne Hutchinson) with whom she shared a great deal, she paid a price.  She got more than just heckled; scorned, criticized, the object of ridicule, she was called many things, including “a female monster whom all decent people should avoid”.   She published a newspaper (again like Woodhull) and fell in with Robert Dale Owen – leader of a socialist/utopian movement and started a commune!  Yup.  A commune in Tennessee – she bought the land herself – called “Nashoba” where she tried (unsuccessfully) to give slaves a place to live and learn the skills to live free.  Tawk about idealism.  I love Frances Wright.  She, like so many of our “fore sisters” inspire me.  Another unknown fabulous forgotten female, a REAL maverick.


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