Educator. Born into slavery on August 11, 1862, in Spartanburg, Wright was the youngest of three daughters of Lott and Adeline Farrow. She was educated by northern teachers who came south to teach Spartanburg’s freed persons after the Civil War. Of them, Wright said, “They were Yankees, but they were not carpetbaggers. Their aim was to give the South something rather than to take away.” Wright went on to study at the Asheville Normal School and the Scotia Seminary in Concord, North Carolina. She graduated from Claflin University. In August 1879 she accepted her first teaching position in Inman, where she held classes in a brush arbor. She later organized schools and taught in mill villages and churches in Spartanburg and Saxon.
In 1884 she married William Corbeth Wright, a house painter. They had ten children, two of whom died in infancy. She continued teaching after her marriage, and in 1904 she organized a school in her home for black children who were too young to walk to the nearest black school. This institution eventually became a public school, and Wright went on to become the leading black educator in Spartanburg during her sixty-four-year teaching career.
Wright was also active in professional and community activities. For over fifty years she served as chair of the Palmetto State Teachers Association Department of Primary Teachers (the state association for black teachers). She organized a first-aid school for African Americans during World War I. She also founded the Home for Aged Negro Women in Spartanburg. In 1925 she began the Charity Christmas Tree program for underprivileged black children. A member of Silver Hill Methodist Church, she was also an active member of the Household of Ruth and other mutual aid organizations. Wright was well respected by blacks and whites alike, as evidenced by the Spartanburg Daily Herald’s front-page tribute to her in June 1937.
Wright retired in 1943 at the age of eighty-one and died on August 25, 1946. Carrier Street School, the institution that began in her home, was later renamed Mary Wright Elementary School in her memory.
Boler, Gail. “Mary Honor Farrow Wright.” In The Lives They Lived: A Look at Women in the History of Spartanburg, edited by Linda Powers Bilanchone. Spartanburg, S.C., 1981.
Button, Jack. “Negro Teacher Has Won Respect of County through 58 Years of Service.” Spartanburg Daily Herald, June 20, 1937, pp. 13, 24.