Margaret Fuller (1810-1850)
Margaret Fuller was born Sarah Margaret Fuller in 1810 and grew up in Cambridgeport, just outside of Harvard Square. She was an intellectual at a young age, educated at home by her father Timothy and later at different private schools, taking a special interest in the study of the Classics. Margaret was unable to attend Harvard, because she was a woman,
but found herself the intellectual rival of many of the men she met there.
Margaret became good friends with the “Transcendentalist Club,” a group whose members included Ralph Waldo Emerson, her confidante and intellectual rival, as well as Henry David Thoreau, whose essays she edited. Margaret was also the editor of The Dial, a prominent transcendentalist publication, from 1840-1844. Margaret taught for a time at the Temple School, founded by Bronson Alcott, Louisa May Alcott’s father, where Margaret met and befriended the Peabody sisters, Mary, Elizabeth, and Sophia, some of the most successful female educational pioneers of the time. Eventually, frustrated with the lack of educational opportunities for women, Margaret began her “Conversations” in 1839, a series of educational and philosophical lectures for women, in which she began to connect the themes of Romanticism, Transcendentalism, and feminism, an extremely radical notion at the time.
In 1845, Margaret caught America’s attention with her essay, Woman in the Nineteenth Century, which was one of the most polarizing and popular writings on women’s rights and equality of the time, and it garnered both fame and infamy for Margaret. It caught the attention of Horace Greely, editor of the New York Tribune, who asked Margaret to work for the paper, and she became an editor and prominent contributor, devoting her life to journalism. In 1846, Margaret became America’s first female foreign correspondent, when Greely funded a trip to Europe in which she wrote articles throughout her travels. She arrived just as the Italian Revolutions of 1848 were beginning, and she provided detailed accounts of the events to America. In Italy she met her husband, Giovanni Ossoli, and had a child, Angelo. She was in process of writing a great book about the experience of the revolutions in Europe at the time, but it was unfortunately lost in a shipwreck in 1850, which also tragically took Margaret’s life.
The Lives of Margaret Fuller
by John Matteson
The life and history of one of America’s first great feminist thinkers.