Susanna Wright

Born: 1697, Lancashire, England
Died: 1784, Columbia, Pennsylvania

Susanna Wright, a dynamic force in establishing colonial self-sufficiency, she encouraged industry, especially the production of silk and linen; implanted her Quaker beliefs; and stimulated a literary current through her poetry and correspondence. She quickened her intellect with some of the most inventive minds of eighteenth-century Philadelphia, like James Logan, Benjamin Franklin and Charles Thomson.

Versed in Latin and Italian and fluent in French, she also studied the local native American language when she moved to the fringes of Pennsylvania’s wilderness in 1726. Literature was her constant delight; and she brought, via London booksellers, the leaves of European civilization to the wilds of America. Milton, Swift, Pope, Racine and Corneille nurtured the insatiable mind of this inquisitive colonist. Fellow bibliophile Benjamin Franklin would send her little presents along with the books she ordered: a thermometer, an almanac for the new year, and bayberry candles. In turn, the Franklin family would receive casks of pickled “Susquehanna salmon,” baskets of apples and charming letters from Susanna’s pen. In order to gather support for Braddock’s troops during the French and Indian War, Benjamin Franklin sought her advice and her brother James supplied flour for the troops from his mill on the nearby Shawnee Run. He and his brother John ran the ferry which was established in 1730 on Susanna Wright’s hundred acre tract of land on the east shore of the Susquehanna River.

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