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Biography of Author Margaret Fuller

Updated on August 14, 2013
Author Margaret Fuller is remembered as a great feminist and transcendentalist writer.
Author Margaret Fuller is remembered as a great feminist and transcendentalist writer. | Source

Margaret Fuller

"On the 23rd of May, 1810, was born one foredoomed to sorrow and pain, and like others to have misfortunes."

At ten years old, Margaret Fuller, wrote this cryptic note to her father, which, luck for us today, he saved. Born Sarah Margaret Fuller on the date mentioned above, Timothy Fuller's little girl would grow up to become a major figure in women's rights and the American transcendentalism movement. The Massachusetts-born writer was fortunate to be raised with an education more common for a boy of those times, than a girl, with strict requirements from her father for precision and accuracy and no access to the etiquette books and sentimental novels more common for educating children of her sex.

This radical decision for this times came about because her father had hoped for a son when Fuller was born. Lucky for her, he decided to provide her with what that son would have had and raised a girl that would one day be a major figure in women's rights in America known for her intelligence along with her ideas.

Margaret Fuller was an avid reader, with a reputation for being the best read person in New England. Among her many achievements, she was the first woman allowed to use the library at Harvard College and the first female correspondent for the Tribune in Europe. She died in a shipwreck, along with her husband and child, on her way back to the United States from Italy in 1850.

Margaret Fuller's book began as this article written for "The Dial" magazine.
Margaret Fuller's book began as this article written for "The Dial" magazine. | Source

Women in the Nineteenth Century

A biography of Margaret Fuller, however brief, is not complete without mentioning her book, Women in the Nineteenth Century, published in July of 1843. This work began as an article in The Dial magazine entitled "The Great Lawsuit. Man versus Men. Woman versus Women" before being expanded into an entire book. This very book is now considered the first major feminist work in the United States.

The basic argument for Fuller's essay is that men and women can never be happy until both are men and woman have mutual dependence on each other. She claims that women will never be happy without the same religious and intellectual freedom as men. In the end, she says that women must learn to be individuals and self dependent and that, while men must remove themselves as a dominating force in a relationship, women must also learn not to depend so much on men.

Amongst those who read Margaret Fuller's book, Edgar Allen Poe wrote that Women in the Nineteenth Century is "a book which few women in the country could have written, and no woman in the country would have published, with the exception of Miss Fuller." It was considered the first major work on women's rights since Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication on the Rights of Woman (1792).

Transcendentalist Authors

Which prominent figure in the transcendentalism movement is your favorite?

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As mentioned in the brief biography above for author Margaret Fuller, Fuller was a major figure in the American transcendentalism movement. Transcendentalism was a religious and philosophical movement during the 1820's and 1830's that basically believed in the inherent goodness of people and nature.

In addition, this movement, born in the Eastern part of the United States, followed the belief that society and institutions tainted this goodness and that a true community could only be formed when individuals were completely self reliant and independent. This can definitely be seen in Margaret Fuller's own writing, especially in Women in the Nineteenth Century, where she promotes these very ideas.

Besides Margaret Fuller, other major figures within the transcendentalist movement include:

  • Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Henry David Thoreau
  • Walt Whitman
  • Emily Dickenson
  • Elizabeth Palmer Peabody

A copy of the only known surviving photograph of author Margaret Fuller.
A copy of the only known surviving photograph of author Margaret Fuller. | Source

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Biography of Margaret Fuller

Author Margaret Fuller's biography ends with her tragic death in that shipwreck with her beloved husband, Giovanni Angelo, the Marchese d'Ossoli, and their son off of Fire Island, New York. However, she is well remembered today both as a prominent feminist writer and a major figure of the American transcendentalist movement.

Her friends and colleagues, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Charlse T. Cogdon, described Margaret Fuller with the following:

"She wore this circle of friends, when I first knew her, as a necklace of diamonds about her neck. They were so much to each other that Margaret seemed to represent them all, and to know her was to acquire a place with them. The confidences given her were their best, and she held them to them. She was an active, inspiring companion and correspondent, and all the art, the thought, the nobleness in New England seemed at that moment related to her and she to it. She was everywhere a welcome guest."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

"In American literature she will remain a remarkable biographic phenomenon, while the tragic death of this Lycidas of women, a most painful personal story of shipwreck, was intensified by so many melancholy incidents that whoever, long years hence, may read them, will wonder how the gods could have been so pitiless, and why the life of new happiness and larger intellectual achievement which was before her should so suddenly have ended upon that savage and inhospitable shore."

Charles T. Cogdon

Margaret Fuller Quotes

As this biography of author Margaret Fuller began with one of her earliest quotes from childhood, I leave you with a few she left from her later years:

"Today a reader, tomorrow a leader."

"If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it."

"Only the dreamer shall understand realities, though in truth his dreaming must be not out of proportion to his waking."

"Two persons love in one another the future good which they aid one another to unfold."

"Very early, I knew that the only object in life was to grow."

Author Margaret Fuller's autograph
Author Margaret Fuller's autograph | Source

© 2013 Lisa


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    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 4 years ago from Taos, NM

      Another very interesting article, Lisa. I am not as familiar with her writing as the others from the Transcendental movement. In fact, I hate to admit this, but when I taught high school American Literature eons ago, I did not include her writings of that era. I probably should have. My favorite is poet, Emily Dickenson and then Walt Whitman. I also taught Emerson and Thoreau, but they are so intellectual sometimes in their writings. I had to really work to make their writings interesting to my students. This was a movement in American Literature that many colleagues of mine hated teaching, but I loved teaching it because of Dickenson and Whitman. I love how Dickenson says so much in such few words and the images she creates are fantastic. That's why my own poetry is minimalist when it comes to writing. Thanks for sharing your knowledge in this area.