Michael Wright

1818 - September 1881

photo of Michael Wright, Leicester Secular Society Archive

Michael Wright was born in Cheadle in 1818 and went to work in a factory at the age of seven. In 1825 he moved to Leicester and became a follower of Robert Owen. He worked for 18 months in the Owenite style community at Manea Fen, founded by William Hodson, which collapsed in 1841 with financial problems and violence.

Wright then worked in a weaving mill in Manchester where he joined in agitation against the corn law. Following this he rose to become manager of a silk weaving firm in Foleshill and moved back to Leicester to manage a new elastic web factory on Welford Road that had been set up by T. W. Hodges, who had been a fellow socialist at Manea Fen. Around 1865 he set up a factory of his own.

Besides his Owenite and Secularist activities, Michael Wright was a republican, and an abstainer and vegetarian for most of his life. He was one of the leaders of the anti-vaccination movement and was imprisoned for this for a time, and was involved in educational reforms, and in the anti-sabbatarian National Sunday League. In the organisation of his factory however he took a paternalistic view and opposed trade union formation.

With Josiah Gimson and W. H. Holyoak he helped to reactivate Leicester Secular Society in 1867, and was the second largest shareholder after Gimson in the Leicester Secular Hall Company, but died only six months after the opening of the hall.

He had two sons. The elder Philip Wright introduced Sydney Gimson to the Secular Society. The younger Thomas Wright was an active secularist, taking part in the 'Cricket Wars' to allow play on a Sunday.

Sources and Links

Leicester Secular Society Newsletter May 2008, p3, article by Ned Newitt.
Leicester Secular Society Archive portrait photo.
Utopia Britannica includes details about Manea Fen community.
High Beam extract of article by John Langdon
Gerald Massey G. J. Holyoake text about Manea Fen. Spells the organiser's name as Hodgson.
WhosWho of Radical Leicester entry for James Thompson who edited the Working Bee at Manea Fen.