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About Anna Doyle Wheeler
Anna Doyle Wheeler (born c. 1785, Tipperary, Ireland, died 1848) was a writer and advocate of political rights for women and the benefits of contraception. She married Francis Massey Wheeler when she was aged 15 and they separated 12 years later. After his death she supplemented her income by translating the works of French philosophers.
She was an acquaintance of Robert Owen, Jeremy Bentham, and Frances Wright. The philosopher William Thompson described his book Appeal of One Half of the Human Race, Women, Against the Pretensions of the Other Half, Men, to Retain them in Political, and Hence in Civil and Domestic, Slavery as the "joint property" of himself and her.
A staunch advocate of political rights for women and equal opportunities in education, she was friendly with French feminists and socialists.
Anna Doyle was the daughter of a prebendary from Fennor Parish in Tipperary. She had no formal education, but learned French, geography, reading and writing. She was 15 when she married Francis Massey Wheeler, (possibly a scion of Baron Massy of Duntrileague in the County of Limerick), whence they started living in Limerick. She had two daughters, her second daughter (born 1802) became the novelist Rosina Bulwer Lytton (née Rosina Doyle Wheeler). She read widely, taking in both French political thinkers and Mary Wollstonecraft. Her husband Francis was an abusive alcoholic so she separated from him after 12 years by moving to Guernsey to stay with her uncle, General Sir John Doyle the Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey. In 1815 she moved to London to benefit the education of her daughters. By 1816 she started journeying through France.
Wheeler's husband died in 1820 and left her penniless, so she supplemented her income by translating into English the works of Charles Fourier and other French Owenite philosophers. She managed to spend her life travelling, staying with friends and promoting the news and ideas of the feminist movement. She lived principally in London, Dublin, Caen, and Paris.
In London, she met Robert Owen, Jeremy Bentham and Frances Wright, and became close friends with William Thompson. In 1825, provoked by James Mill's dismissal of political representation for women, Thompson wrote Appeal of One Half of the Human Race, Women, Against the Pretensions of the Other Half, Men, to Retain them in Political, and Hence in Civil and Domestic, Slavery. Thompson described the book as the "joint property" of himself and Anna Wheeler. They were both advocates of the benefits of contraception.
Wheeler was one of the first women to campaign for feminism at public meetings in England. She sometimes spoke at the South Place Chapel, "a radical gathering-place" then under the leadership of Reverend William Johnson Fox (and now better known as Conway Hall). Unitarians, like Quakers, supported female equality, and this chapel, situated on Finsbury Square in central London, gave her the pulpit to speak on "Rights of Women". In this 1829 address, she forensically refuted arguments for male superiority, and encouraged women to work together to create an organization "to obtain. . . the removal of the disabilities of women and the introduction of a national system of equal education for the Infants of both sexes."
A staunch advocate of political rights for women and equal opportunities in education, she was friends with French feminists and socialists Flora Tristan and Desirée Veret. In the early 1830s she helped found the journal Tribune des femmes (French Wikipedia article). Her other friends and associates included Henri Saint-Simon and Charles Fourier, Suzanne Voilquin (French Wikipedia article), Marie-Reine Guindorff (French Wikipedia article) and Jeanne Deroin.
In 1833 William Thompson died, leaving her an annuity of £100.
Appeal of One Half of the Human Race, Women, Against the Pretensions of the Other, Men. (1825) William Thompson credited her with many of the ideas.
The Rights of Women (1830) published in The British Co-operator.
Letter from Vlasta (1833)
Death and commemoration
Anna Doyle Wheeler was forced to withdraw from public life in the 1840s due to ill health, and she died in 1848 having refused invitations to take part in the revolution in France that year.
Wheeler's daughter Rosina Bulwer Lytton was a noted writer and outspoken public speaker. Her grandson Robert Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Earl of Lytton served as Viceroy of British India from 1876-1880. Her great grandsons became the second and third Earls of Lytton.
Her great-granddaughter became the sister-in-law of Prime Minister Gerald Balfour, whilst another great-granddaughter, Lady Constance Lytton, followed Anna's role model and became a leading suffragette protester, hunger striker and writer.