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Patience Wright: Artist Or Spy? Essay

1351 words - 5 pages

1775: The American Revolution officially starts. 1783: The American Revolution finally comes to an end. There are numerous of hardships, victories, secrets, and untold stories throughout these eight long years. It makes us wonder how it was possible for the American colonies, being the underdogs, to beat what was thought to be one of the leading countries of the time, England. It took a lot of hard work, determination and art to win this battle. You heard right, art, as in wax figures, sculptures, busts, and much more made by Patience Wright. It is the small, yet important figures, including women that contributed to America’s victory in the Revolutionary War that we often overlook.
Patience Wright, formerly known as Patience Lovell, was born in 1725, in Long Island New Jersey to a “well-to-do-Quaker family” (MacLean, 1). At that time in America, women were not allowed to own property or make any kind of salary; it was custom for women to carry out their duties to marry and raising a family. Fortunately for Wright, the Quakers “believed women should have rights and education equal to men’s”, and being raised in a Quaker family gave her the independent and outgoing personality she is becomes known for later in her life. At the age of four, Wright’s family moved to Bordentown, New Jersey (Magliaro, 1). As a child Patience always had a special interest in art. Her sister and she would use wet dough to sculpt figurines and use grains or plant extracts to make paint (MacLean, 1).
Patience married Joseph Wright, also a Quaker, at age twenty-three, and had four children (Patience Lovel Wright, 1). Although her husband did not approve of her art or independent attitude, “For years she amused herself and her children by molding faces out of putty and bread dough” (Magliaro, 1). Unfortunately, when he died in 1769, she was left a widow at forty-four with little money and a family to support. Since times were tough and her husband left her nothing, she needed a way to support herself, and her talent for art seemed like her only option. With some support from her family and friends, especially her neighbor, Francis Hopkinson, “her pastime became a [her] full-time occupation when she began molding portrait busts in tinted wax” (MacLean, 1). Wright managed to open a shop with her sister, Rachel, in Philadelphia, and her art work was an instant success, ranging from detailed, life-sized heads and hands, which were then attached to clothed figures to three-dimensional framed portraits (Magliaro,1). People were amazed with her art, many famous people came to her seeking full size sculptures and were left speechless knowing that she was never given any “formal education” but rather was “self-taught” (Zeinert, 36). He excellent reputation is what gave Patience Wright the title of America’s first Sculptor, and recognition as the first professional American wax modeler (Brown, 1). Not long after, in 1770, Wright managed to create enough pieces to have an...

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