Patience Wright (1725-1786)
At the time of her husband’s death her children ages ranged from young adult to the unborn. Since she had no resources, in Colonial times woman did not inherit their husband’s property, she needed to do something to support the young children still living at home with her. She had a natural gift for sculpture even without formal training. At the encouragement of Francis Hopkinson (her neighbor) Patience converted her “hobby” of sculpting in wax and clay to her livelihood. She soon developed a reputation for her skill, important at a time when the only likenesses of people were painted or sculpted.
A miniature wax sculpture in the Bordentown Historical Society’s collection has been attributed to Patience Wright and is identified as either a self portrait or Mrs. Francis Hopkinson.
She sculpted heads and hands of her famous subjects and exhibited them in the subjects own clothes. Her life-size sculpture of Lord Chattam (William Pitt) still stands in Westminster Abbey in London. When her revolutionary sympathies got her in trouble in London she went to Paris and opened a studio there. It is believed at that time she made contact with Benjamin Franklin, and sculpted his likeness. After the war she returned to London attempting to return to her beloved America. During 1786 it is believed after a visit to John Adams in London, then ambassador to Britain, she experienced a terrible fall and died a few days later she was sixty-one.