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Wright, Frances.

LETTERS: Correspondence with Dr. William James MacNeven.


Wright, Frances. Nine Autograph Letters Signed by Wright to Dr. William James MacNeven.
Various places [Whitburn, Allonby, Glasgow, London, and Paris], 1820-1823; 32 pages, generally closely
written, comprising thousands of words.
An important collection of nine autograph letters signed to Dr. William James MacNeven by pioneering
radical feminist reformer Frances Wright.
This unpublished collection presents valuable evidence of the thought of America's first great feminist
social reformer. Wright's wide-ranging interests, immense energy, fertile mind, and fervent desire to
improve the world are amply documented in this important, newly discovered archive.
Frances (Fanny) Wright (1795-1852) first toured America in 1818-19, resulting in her classic Views of
Society and Manners in America (1821). After returning to Scotland from America, Wright wrote this
remarkable series of letters to the famous Irish exile physician William James MacNeven in New York.
Wright soon settled in the United States, becoming a naturalized citizen in 1825.
Wright was admired-and vilified-for her advocacy of social reform. The first famous woman lecturer
in America, she spoke out against slavery, capital punishment, and organized religion, and in favor of
improved treatment of women, birth control, and public education. She was one of the first women to edit
a widely circulated newspaper in the United States, she founded in Tennessee a utopian colony for freed
slaves, and she "shocked Americans by becoming one of the first women to speak before a mixed
audience." "A controversial figure, Wright dared to hold America to its promise of 'liberty and justice for
all.' Equally hated and adored, she paved the way for later social reforms" (ANB).
This outstanding series of letters shows Wright at the beginning of her illustrious career, discussing at
length the leading political events and philosophical issues of the day. She addresses, among many other
subjects: the free press ("the safety valve of a free Constitution"); the penal systems of New York,
Philadelphia, and England; limited use of the death penalty and the superiority of life imprisonment;
universal education; poverty; the dangers associated with public charity; Bolivar and the revolutions in
South America and their support by the Irish; the need for American patriotic songs; Thomas Jefferson's
praise of her play Altorf; her friendship with Lafayette; and the publication of her writings.
This unpublished archive documents the thought, ideals and fiery passion of one of America's first great
reformers at the dawn of her illustrious career. "Equally hated and adored, she paved the way for later
social reforms"

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