Patience Wright: America's First Sculptor and Revolutionary Spy

Overview

The intriguing story of one of America?s first spies?a woman!

Born in 1725 in the American colonies, Patience Wright discovered her talent for art at an early age. As an adult, she joined her sister in a wax-sculpting business and later moved on her own to England. There, Patience became a spy for the colonies, hiding messages in the sculpted busts she sent to her sister?s waxworks in America. Here is the ...

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Overview

The intriguing story of one of America’s first spies—a woman!

Born in 1725 in the American colonies, Patience Wright discovered her talent for art at an early age. As an adult, she joined her sister in a wax-sculpting business and later moved on her own to England. There, Patience became a spy for the colonies, hiding messages in the sculpted busts she sent to her sister’s waxworks in America. Here is the story of a woman who lived an extraordinary life, full of art and intrigue.
 

Patience Wright is a 2008 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Claudia Mills
It's wonderful that young readers live in a time when so much is being discovered and shared about the strong and brave women of America's past. Patience Lovell Wright is a case in point, worthy of recognition as a highly successful and entrepreneurial sculptor whose story becomes all the more fascinating when she begins passing political secrets overheard in her wax-sculpting studio to colonial leaders during the Revolutionary War. Raised an independent-minded Quaker, Patience used her artistic talents to support her four children when she was left widowed at age 45; soon, she and her also-widowed sister achieved fame for their remarkably life-life wax figures of rising political stars. In 1772, Patience moved her operations to London and Paris, where she was once nearly arrested for having Benjamin Franklin's "real head" in her possession. As Patience sculpted, she also listened, and sent across the ocean espionage messages carefuly hidden inside her molded waxen heads. Shea has indeed found a story worth telling, and she tells it well, with Andersen's watercolors a lovely, period-perfect accompaniment.
School Library Journal

Gr 4–6
This biography introduces an obscure but fascinating American Revolution figure—a patriotic precursor to Madame Tussaud. Born in Oyster Bay, NY, in 1725, Patience Lovell grew up in a Quaker household. From an early age, she exhibited a gift for creating lifelike sculptures, first using clay, and later, wax. Widowed at 45, she moved to Philadelphia, where she opened an art studio. Wealthy clients commissioned busts and figures of themselves. After establishing permanent exhibits in Philadelphia and New York, Wright opened a London studio. Letters of introduction from Ben Franklin helped to establish her success in England. While her efforts to persuade King George not to wage war on the colonies failed, her engaging nature helped her obtain information from members of Parliament and military officers. "Patience led them into revealing secrets by offering wrong information, which they immediately corrected." She put the secrets inside hollow busts that she sent back home, revealing which colonists took bribes from the British, as well as details about enemy weapons and attacks. The delicately rendered, gouache-and-pastel illustrations, covering full spreads, portray the artist, the early American landscape, period costumes, and life-size, fully dressed sculptures. The one of Franklin's head looks alarmingly alive, as the coloring, facial expression, and eyes are so real. Use this unique biography to enrich social-studies units on the Revolution and on women's history.
—Barbara AuerbachCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews
One of nine sisters and one brother born to a Quaker family, Patience grew up in New Jersey and discovered her talent for sculpting figures early on. Widowed and with children to support, she moved in with another sister, gave up vegetarianism and began to work in wax made from animal fats. She and her sister had studios in New York and Philadelphia, and sculpted portrait heads and full figures of many notables. She moved to London in 1772 with a letter of introduction from Ben Franklin, sculpted everyone from William Pitt to the king and queen and was resourceful enough to put notes about what she learned about possible war tactics into the busts she shipped back home. Unfortunately, the only one of her waxworks to survive is the figure of Pitt, in his crypt at Westminster Abbey. Full of fascinating detail, the text is well-matched by lively gouache and pastel illustrations, vibrant with color and texture. While it is too dense for younger children, middle-graders will no doubt be fascinated. (author note, timeline, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 8-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805067705
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
  • Publication date: 4/17/2007
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 40
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.79 (w) x 11.33 (h) x 0.45 (d)

Meet the Author

Pegi Deitz Shea is the author of many books for young readers, such as Liberty Rising: The Story of the Statue of Liberty. She lives in Connecticut.

Bethanne Andersen has illustrated several acclaimed books for children, including Seven Brave Women. She lives in Boise, Idaho.

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