Described as a “utopian abolitionist,” Frances Wright shared many similarities with Walt Whitman. Scottish-born Wright came to the United States and became so enamored with the fledgling nation that she decided to write a book that praised the land that she had come to admire. Rather than turn a blind eye to the institution of slavery, Wright became determined to find a solution to what she believed was the “paramount problem” of the United States.
According to the www.nndb.com website, Wright supported “free boarding schools, endorsed free love, and called for equal rights for women.” I noticed in the 1856 version of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass places A Poem for Women immediately after his Poem of Walt Whitman, An American. For me, this placement indicates Whitman’s connection to women as his first and primary connection to someone other than himself. Arguably, Wright’s greatest influence on Whitman was her position as a “utopian abolitionist” and her insistence on having sexual freedom. Our current assigned reading, A Song for Occupations, echoes the same sentiments of a utopian milieu where occupations do not define individuals. The speaker of A Song of Occupations illustrates Whitman’s desire for a utopian environment when he asserts “but I am eternally in love with you and with all my fellows upon the earth.”
I haven’t any evidence that suggests that Whitman had ever met Wright, but I’m willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that Whitman knew of the eccentric Frances Wright.