From Utopia to Reform

Arnita Ament Jones describes the collaboration of Frances Wright and Robert Dale Owen in the American movement for reform and the conduct of Utopian communities.

The careers of Frances Wright and Robert Dale Owen first crossed at the Owenite community of New Harmony, Indiana, in the summer of 1826. Frances Wright was a Scottish heiress, thirty years old, who had travelled widely and whose writings had already won recognition from some of the leading intellectuals of the day. In 1825 she had purchased land at Nashoba, Tennessee, and had begun a plantation on which she hoped to demonstrate a plan for the abolition of slavery.

After several months’ work at the arduous task of building a community in the wilderness, she fell ill and sought refuge at New Harmony, Robert Owen’s communitarian experiment on the Wabash River, which was nearby but somewhat less removed from civilization. It was there that she first met the younger Owen, Robert Dale, freshly arrived from an apprenticeship at his father’s mills in New Lanark and eager to take up his new role as member of the utopian community.

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