|Davis, Paulina W. (Paulina Wright), 1813-1876|
Paulina Kellogg Wright Davis was born in Bloomfield, New York on August 7, 1813, the daughter of Captain Ebenezer Kellogg and Polly Saxon. After the death of both parents, Paulina was raised by a strict orthodox Presbyterian aunt. After a brief immersion with religion, Paulina married Francis Wright, a wealthy Utica merchant, in 1833. The couple became very involved in various contemporary reforms, especially abolitionism and women’s rights. Her husband’s death in 1845 left Davis desolate but wealthy and free to embark on a career as a lecturer and women’s health advocate. She studied medicine in New York City and lectured widely on female anatomy and physiognomy.
While on tour in Providence, Paulina met widower Thomas Davis, a wealthy local jewelry manufacturer with reform sentiments similar to those of Francis Wright. The couple married in April, 1849 and began a partnership that exerted great influence upon Rhode Island’s social and cultural life during the mid-nineteenth century. Paulina Davis worked on the National Women’s Rights Convention held in Worcester in 1850 and two years later launched the publication of Una, which she called the first women’s magazine devoted to “the elevation of women.” She was determined to provide a dialogue among women on the issues of labor, marriage, suffrage, property rights, and education, but Una had a short lifespan.
On her spacious Providence estate, Davis presided over numerous gatherings of prominent people interested in women’s issues, abolitionism, literature, and art–“a radiant figure”, said one observer, in her “circle of literary, artistic, and reformatory people.” Paulina Davis made many of the arrangements for the 20th anniversary meeting of the women’s suffrage movement held in New York City, and, in 1871, she published the proceedings as The History of the National Women’s Rights Movement. In the 1860s and 1870s Davis traveled abroad meeting many prominent European reformers and indulged her love and skill for art by copying the paintings of great masters. She abandoned her artwork, only when she became crippled with arthritis. She died in Providence on August 24, 1876, shortly after observing her 63rd birthday.