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The American Romantic Movement

Margaret Fuller
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Edgar Allan Poe
Henry David Thoreau
Harriot Beecher Stowe
Walt Whitman
Emily Dickinson
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Margaret Fuller
Herman Melville
James Fenimore Cooper
Washington Irving

 
"The especial genius of women I believe to be electrical in movement,
intuitive in function, spiritual in tendency."

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Margaret Fuller was born Sarah Margaret Fuller on May 23, 1810. As an author, editor and teacher, Fuller’s contributions to the American Renaissance and the mid-nineteenth century reform movements were immense. She was a bright and highly educated member of the transcendentalist group and she challenged Ralph Waldo Emerson both intellectually and emotionally. The women that attended her conversations and the many prominent men of her time found Fuller’s influence life-changing. Her major work, Woman in the Nineteenth Century, published in 1845 had a profound affect on women’s rights. She possessed influence on the thought of American women that exceeded that of any woman previous to her time.

     Margaret was the first of eight daughters and sons to the Unitarian parents, Margarett Crane and Timothy Fuller. Five of Margaret’s seven brothers and sisters grew to adulthood. After her first young sister died, Margaret was an only child and was the focus of her parents’ attention. Her father was very into giving her the best possible education he could, so he decided to teach her himself. Margaret soaked up many disciplines, including Latin, English grammar, mathematics, history, music and modern languages, by the age of six. Margaret attended three schools, Cambridge Port Private Grammar School, Dr. Park’s Boston Lyceum and Miss Prescott’s Young Ladies Seminary, on an irregular basis between 1819 and 1825. Her parents hoped she would gain some polish in feminine accomplishments. Through early instruction, Margaret emerged as having a natural brilliance that many of her peers interpreted as arrogance. Longing for admiration and companionship, Margaret was socially awkward and unpopular among peers who responded to her with a mixture of awe and ridicule.

     When her schooling ended, Margaret pursued her studies on her own. She met Lydia Maria Francis, whom she found time to study with. Together, Margaret and Maria read classics and moderns like Rousseau, Byron and Mme. de StaŽl, who excited Margaret’s interest in romantics. Margaret soon developed an ardent spirit.

     Margaret’s ardent spirit and astonishing accomplishments appealed to several young collegians; some of her intimates were James Freeman Clarke, Frederic Henry Hedge and William Henry Channing. Eliza Farrar, wife of Harvard professor John Farrar, took Margaret on as a project in the improvement of dress and manners and introduced her to visitors like Fanny Kemble and Harriet Martineau. Margaret developed a group of girlfriends to complete a happy circle as she came into her own in her late teens and early twenties.

     In 1833, Timothy Fuller moved his family to Groton, Massachusetts, where Margaret was put off her new isolation. However she set to work on some serious writing. She translated a drama of Goethe and published essays in Boston papers and in James Freeman Clarke's journal, the Western Messenger. In 1835, her father died, sending the family plummeting into a financial downfall. Margaret had to give on her potential tour of Europe with the Farrars and Harriet Martineau. She struggled to replace her father in the family, see to the education and welfare of the younger children and protect her mother’s interests. From that point on, her life was plagued by financial difficulties.

     To compensate for the lost trip to Europe, Eliza Farrar and Harriet Martineau urged Emerson to befriend Fuller, and Elizabeth Peabody suggested that he invite her to Concord. Even though Margaret had counted on a trip oversees to prepare her for her entry into her literary career, she figured that a move into the Transcendentalist circle would be the next best thing. She first visited the Emersons for three weeks in the summer of 1836 while Emerson was finishing his essay, Nature, published later that year. Fuller and Emerson didn’t hit it off immediately. However, Fuller’s intellect soon grew on him.

     In 1839, Margaret Fuller started holding conversational meetings that included female writers in order to discuss intellectualism and social activism. This circle of women included Lidian Emerson, Sarah Bradford Ripley, Abigail Allyn Francis, Lydia Maria Child, Elizabeth Hoar, Eliza Farrar, Mary Channing, Elizabeth, Mary and Sophia Peabody, Sophia Dana Ripley and Lydia Parker. Even though women were taught the same subjects as men, the extent of the use of their learning power was very limited. Fuller Provided a free-flowing environment of expression, which allowed these women discuss their ideas and form their own thoughts on topics such as classical mythology, education, ethics, fine arts and women.

At Emerson's invitation Fuller had begun attending meetings of the Transcendentalist circle in 1838, and the following year she agreed to serve as editor of the new Transcendentalist journal, the Dial, which released its first issue in 1840. Contributors to the Dial included the likes of Emerson, Bronson Alcott, Henry Hedge, Ellen Cooper, Caroline Sturgis, Ellery Channing, Henry David Thoreau, Theodore Parker, Elizabeth Peabody and George and Sophia Ripley. For almost three years she coaxed articles and poems from reluctant writers, rejected unsuitable material, and wrote much of the Dial's content herself. When Emerson took over as editor of the Dial, Fuller contributed her groundbreaking essay, "The Great Lawsuit: Man vs. Men and Woman vs. Women," for the July, 1843 issue. She then went with Sarah Freeman Clarke on a tour of the Great Lakes territory, the subject of Summer on the Lakes in 1843, published the following year. Horace Greeley, publisher of the New York Tribune, noted Fuller's new book and her work with the Dial and invited her to write for his paper. Before taking that post, she enlarged "The Great Lawsuit" to be published in 1845 as Woman in the Nineteenth Century.

     In the summer of 1846, Fuller sailed for Europe as the New York Tribune’s foreign correspondent. During the 1848 uprisings in Italy, Margaret felt freer to express herself than she had ever felt before at home. She felt more at home and rededicated herself to Italy. She sent reports back to the Tribune. Soon after her arrived in Rome she met the handsome twenty-six-year-old nobleman, Giovanni Angelo Ossoli. Then in her late thirties, she had survived several unfulfilled love relationships. She enjoyed the attentions of this young man in what soon became a serious attachment. Later, in 1948, she went to the village of Rieti, where her son, Eugenio Filippo Ossoli was born on September 7. It is not clear on whether Fuller and Ossoli ever married.

     In May of 1950, Margaret and her family set sail for New York on the merchant freighter, the Elizabeth. Very soon into the voyage, the captain died of smallpox. Margaret’s young son caught the disease, but recovered soon. The inexperienced mate who took command after the captain's death miscalculated his position and was unaware of an approaching hurricane. During the night before the ship's expected landfall, it struck a sandbar within sight of Fire Island and began to break up. The ship eventually sank and Margaret and the Ossoli family perished on July 19, 1850.

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Woman in the 19th Century Pt. 1 (With links to 2 and 3)

The Dial

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References