16. Susan Catherine Wright, née Koerner, was the daughter of a carriage maker, spending her formative years learning to use tools and passed this knowledge and passion onto her curious children
Susan Catherine Koerner (b. 1831) was the wife of Milton Wright and mother to the Wright Brothers, Orville and Wilbur. Meeting in 1853 at Hartsville College, where Susan was a literature student and Milton served as a supervisor, they married in 1859. Despite their religious fanaticism, with Milton serving as a preacher, and later bishop, of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, both shared a common passion for science. The Wright household possessed two libraries: one devoted to Milton’s interests in theology, and a second on a more varied range of subjects. As Orville later credited his parents, “we were lucky enough to grow up in an environment where there was always much encouragement to children to pursue intellectual interests; to investigate whatever aroused curiosity”.
During her early life, Susan spent hours in her father’s carriage shop learning to use tools and tinkering; with a house of her own, as an adult, Susan regularly crafted appliances for the home and her family, including a hand-fashioned sled for her children. Due to Milton’s itinerant work schedule, Susan was habitually the sole adult influence for much of the brothers’ upbringings and encouraged her love of innovation. Sadly, Susan died on July 4, 1889, of tuberculosis, fourteen years before her sons would succeed in their legendary flight.