Patience Lovell Wright
1725 – 1786
I was an artist with many social connections, and – don’t tell! – I may have been a spy.
I was born on Long Island, New York in 1725, but by the time I was four I was living in Bordentown, New Jersey. My father was a devout Quaker, and I was passionate about art, especially sculpting, so when I was twenty-one I moved to Philadelphia, the center of American art. I married a fellow Quaker, Joseph Wright, and we moved back to Bordentown, before he unexpectedly died in 1769.
But I didn’t give up my art dreams, and along with my sister Rachel, who was also a widow, we started a business making wax sculptures, and soon we had salons in Philadelphia and New York City. I met Benjamin Franklin, and he convinced me to move to London and introduced me to important people who wanted to be sculpted.
Things were bad between Britain and its colonies, and I supported the efforts of Prime Minister William Pitt who was trying to reconcile everyone. But at the same time, while my many subjects – including the King himself – were posing, we’d talk openly and honestly about what was going on. If any valuable military or political news came my way, I’d write it in a letter to the Continental Congress, which I would then smuggle out in my wax statues.
I also tried to help American prisoners of war who were jailed in England. And at the same time, I also tried to compensate Loyalists for their losses. I wanted to get back to New Jersey, but I died in London in 1986. Nobody knows where I am buried.Learn More