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Frances Wright and Feminism Essay

During the eighteenth century, most women did not have the capacity, permission or courage to articulate their views about society. Consequently, most of them found themselves subjugated. However, Frances Wright defied societal rules; she was the first woman to articulate her views in public during a time when women were not allowed to express themselves. This lady held feminism and abolitionism ideals. Here life was dedicated to those ideals as demonstrated in her literature and her actions.

The essay shall look at these views and compare them with views held by contemporary feminists such as De Beauvoir and Wollstonecraft. (Kissel, 1983) Source: Buttre, C. (1922); Frances Wright; Fowler & Wells Publishers Frances Wright’s ides on feminism and abolition of slavery, Wright had radical ideas about the abolition of slave trade. She drew inspiration from a reformer known as Robert Owen. The latter socialist had invited Wright to a community founded on communitarian socialism. Right found out that liberal ideas were indeed prevalent and could exist.

She therefore decided to build a similar society that thrived on liberalism. Wright’s community was based in Nashoba and was ideologically different from Owen’s community. Owen’s community was founded upon socialism but hers were founded on slavery. In this community Wright wanted to have facilities that would assist freed slaves in the process of emancipating themselves. Here, they would learn how to take care of themselves by using practical skills. Such a project was rather ambitious and required huge amounts of finance. Wright did not have adequate funding and she could not administer this project well.

Wrights ideas on slavery were strongly founded on the issues of miscegenation. (Echols, 1989) Wright was a feminist in her own right owing to the fact that she challenged the role of women in society. She asserted that society’s perception of marriage was very discriminatory against the woman. Besides that, she also felt that substantial numbers of women were limited in pursuing their goals and aspirations as soon as they got married. Wright’s close associates shared this perception; one of them admitted in public to having a relationship with a slave. This sparked off a lot of resentment for Wright and her project.

Consequently, the project failed and she had to send some of the slaves to Haiti in the year 1830. These actions demonstrated to society just how much she was committed to her feminist ideals. She believed in free association of human beings within relations. Consequently, the concepts of inter-racial marriages was an idea that she held close to her. This was quite a courageous act owing to the fact that society had very conservative ideas about unions between men and women. Not only did Wright challenge society’ notions of marriage and slavery, she also had radical ideas about the role of women in education.

During the eighteen twenties, Wright made her way to the US. While she was there, she gave speeches about education and what the woman’s place was in it. (Ciulla, 1987) Wright also had some political ideas. She had opinions about the American revolution. She was a firm proponent of Egalitarian principles. On top of this, Wright sympathized with the Americans as seen in her book ‘View of society and Manners in America’ Overall, Wright was a liberal thinker. Her speeches were extraordinary as they moved her audiences. Wright also spoke against social inequality in society.

She mostly did this with the help of her colleague – Owen and a New York Based newspaper. According to Wright, all individuals had a right to access free education and so the state should sponsor education so that all people could access it. Her ideas spread into the political arena where she managed to garner the support of a political party known as Workingman’s party. The following are a summary of some of Wrights major topical issues • Slavery, religion and clerical responsibilities • Educational systems • Marriage • The role of the woman in society

One can assert that Wright was a go between secularist reform and rationalist enlightenment. Her life indicated just how difficult it was for other individuals to take up egalitarian ideals form the USA. Comparison of Wright’s work with contemporary feminists Comparison of De Beauvoir and Wright ideas De Beauvoir was very similar to Wright in a number of ways. First of all, she believed in socialism. She even proclaimed herself a radical socialist at a certain point in time. It was a known fact that Wright was also a socialist having drawn inspiration for her interracial community project from a socialist community.

Consequently, one can assert that these two women were alike. De Beauvoir is also similar to Wright owing to the fact that she was a talented speaker. She spoke in numerous lectures about the role of the sexes and elaborated about her opinions with regard to her feminist book ‘The second sex’ However, Wright and De Beauvoir differed on their opinions of what femininity is all about. While Wright challenged manifestation of femininity through education and other similar concepts, De Beauvoir focused on the very definition of femininity.

The latter philosopher argued that all sexes were equal and that one is not born a woman. Instead, she believed that women chose to become who they are in later life. (Echols, 1989) De Beauvoir also differed from Wright in terms of her ideas on politics. She believed that when one fights against oppression against various classes, they should fight against it in all other spheres in life. This means that it could be contradictory to support political parties that fought against oppression of the classes yet at the same time be against feminist movements.

This contradiction was the reason why De Beauvoir avoided the lime light. Wright on the other hand was very influential in politics, she managed to influence a political party in New York. Wright also differed from De Beauvoir on ways of implementing feminist reforms. According to the latter authors, she believed that oppression against women would cease when women were granted the opportunity to work and utilize resources for supporting themselves. Therefore, this French feminist founded her female emancipation concepts on economic factors.

One can clearly see her influences were drawn from Marxism which also asserts that equality in society can be reinforced by granting all social classes equal access to opportunity. (Lott, 1993)On the other hand, Wright believed that oppression against women could be depicted in mostly the social area. Consequently, if society found a way of tackling these social facts, then there would be female emancipation. Wright believed that women would take their rightful place in society if marriage as an institution was disregarded or transformed.

She also believed that women could get out of the confines of oppression through education. Therefore, Wright focused on social factors while De Beauvoir focused on economic aspects Comparison of Wollstonecraft and Wright’ ideas Like Wright and De Beauvoir, Wollstonecraft was an enlightenment feminist. She believed in social reform. This was both with regard to class differences and also with regard to gender disparities in society. Wright was also similar to her contemporary Wollstonecraft owing to the fact that they were both aggressive speakers who had strong ideas about some political ideas.

Wright spoke about the American revolution when she went to visit US. Similarly, Wollstonecraft also contributed to the Revolution controversy. This makes the latter author an activists and it is a sharp contrast to the French philosopher De Beauvoir because she generally tried staying away from politics. Wollstonecraft was very interested in some social reforms especially with regard to education. This makes her very similar to Wright who spoke very widely on the subject. Wollstonecraft asserted that education with which to transform society.

Wollstonecraft drew her ideas from the following authors • Jacques Rousseau • John Locke Wollstonecraft was also similar to Wright owing to the fat that she also discussed the issue of religion in her lecturers and books. She was heavily influenced by the fact that she had been raised in the lower middle class society where religion was a serious aspect of their lives. Her ideas were considered radical but they were also strongly founded on her religious faith. However, Wright was more vocal on the flaws of the church since she openly spoke about the role of clerics. (Ciulla, 1987)

Conclusion The essay examines feminism in the eighteenth century with reference to Wright; A Scotland born philosopher. Wright together with her contemporary feminists believed in social reform. They all despised social stratification and inequitable distribution of resources. De Beauvoir was rather different from the other two feminists examined in the essay as she focused on economic factors as the gateway to female emancipation. The others believed in social reform especially through education. All the feminists also challenged society’s ideas on the place of the woman.

Additionally, all these spoke boldly at a time when women were not expected to speak in public. They were thinkers and affected society’s opinions on feminism and abolition. Reference: Lott, E. (1993): Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class; Oxford University Press Kissel, S. (1983): The Conservative Frances Trollope and the radical Frances Wright; bowling green Buttre, C. (1922); Frances Wright; Fowler & Wells Publishers Ciulla, J. (1987): Feminism unleashed; Psychology Today; 21,(9), 6 Echols, A. (1989): Daring to be bad: Radical feminism in America; University of Minnesota Press


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