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Historical Figures

Not Fannying About: More on the Incredible Frances Wright


Not Fannying About: More on the Incredible Frances Wright

If you have been on our Dundee tour, you will have heard of early nineteenth century anti-slavery campaigner Fanny Wright. Here's some fascinating facts on her life that we don't have time to squeeze into the tour.

Wright, Dundee & Lafayette

Although she spent little time in Dundee her early years had an impact on her. Her parents both died when she two years old and she was sent to live with an aunt. The loss of her parents at such an early age may have given her a resilience and desire for approval that she continued throughout her life.

When she was 26 she formed a close relationship with American revolutionary hero Lafayette. He was exactly 38 years older than her. As a way of regularising their relationship she suggested that he either adopt her or marry her, an offer Lafayette turned down. 

The Nashoba Commune

One thing that we don't speak about on the tour is the outcome of her best known project: the Nashoba Commune. 

The Nashoba commune made up of whites, free blacks and slaves. The slaves would be prepared for freedom by being trained in a trade. Scandal engulfed the community when one of the men published diary extracts which described his relationship with one of the slave women. Fanny hit back at the naysayers by publishing an article in which she argued that miscegenation might be the only thing that could solve America's race problem and describing sexual pleasure as  “the strongest and…the noblest of the human passions” and the basis of “the best joys of our existence”. 

This only added fuel to the fire of speculation and the commune, never financially stable, collapsed. Fanny took the former slaves to the black republic of Haiti where they were placed under the President's direct supervision and were to be given land grants if they did well. Fanny had lost half of her personal wealth thanks to the failure of the Nashoba Commune.

Marriage and Divorce

Sadly she fell prey to the very social structures she had railed against. She had an affair with Dr Guillaume D'Arusmont and became pregnant. She married him in order to legitimise her daughter but the marriage was not a happy one. Even after a long and complicated divorce Fanny had to fight to have her fortune and earnings returned to her. 

She died at the age of 57 in relative obscurity after a long and painful illness brought on by a fall on an icy staircase.