She was born the daughter of James Wright, a wealthy merchant, in Dundee, Scotland. Her father was the designer of Dundee trade tokens. When James Wright and his wife died, they left three children. Fanny was orphaned at the age of three, but was left with a substantial inheritance. Fanny was taken to England and raised in the guardianship of her maternal aunt. Upon her coming of age, she returned to Scotland and spent her winters in study and writing, and her summers visiting the Scottish Highlands. By the age of 18, she had written her first book. She emigrated to the United States in 1818, and with her sister toured from 1818 to 1820. She became enamored of the young nation and became a naturalized citizen in 1825. Wright advocated abolition, universal equality in education, and feminism. She also attacked organized religion, greed, and capitalism. Along with Robert Owen, Wright demanded that the government offer free boarding schools.
Wright was the co-founder of the Free Inquirer newspaper, and authored Views of Society and Manners in America (1821), A Few Days in Athens (1822), and Course of Popular Lectures (1836). The publication of Views of Society and Manners in America was the turning point in Fanny Wright's life. The book brought her new acquaintances, led to her returning to the United States, and established her as a social reformer. The book is of great significance to the American people, their social institutions, ideals, and for the liberal revelations of the humanitarian mind of the eighteen-century Enlightenment becoming acquainted with the new democratic world. The book was translated into several languages and widely read. Wright became the first woman to lecture publicly before a mixed audience when she delivered an Independence Day speech at New Harmony in 1828.
In 1825, Wright founded the Nashoba Commune intending to educate slaves to prepare them for freedom. Wright hoped to build a self-sustaining multi-racial community comprised of slaves, free blacks, and whites. Nashoba was partially based on Owen's New Harmony settlement, where Wright spent a significant amount of time. Nashoba lasted until Wright became ill with malaria and moved back to Europe to recover. The interim management of Nashoba was appalled by Wright's benevolent approach to the slaves living in Nashoba; rumors spread of inter-racial marriage and the Commune fell into financial difficulty, which eventually led to its demise. In 1830, Wright freed the Commune's 30 slaves and accompanied them to the newly-liberated nation of Haiti, where they could live their lives as free men and women.
As an activist in the American Popular Health Movement between 1830 and 1840, Wright advocated for women being involved in health and medicine. After the midterm political campaign of 1838, Wright suffered from a variety of health problems. She died in 1852 in Cincinnati, Ohio, from complications resulting from a fall on an icy staircase.