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.