Margaret Fuller




Occupation Chronology

Issues and themes

In an era when most American women lacked the means or even the confidence to become the intellectual equals of men, Margaret Fuller was an intellectual giant. Given a classical education by her father, she possessed a foundation of knowledge and a keen mind that together made her a leading thinker and writer of her time. In particular, she was known for her literary criticism, which she published in the New York Tribune and elsewhere, and her nonfiction, includingWoman in the Nineteenth Century. In this book, published even before activists such as Susan B. Anthony began to work for women's political and economic independence, Fuller sought to free women's minds, to give them the opportunities and confidence to achieve intellectual independence. In addition to writing about this subject, Fuller organized "Conversations" for women near her home in Massachusetts. Like Franklin's Junto and other organizations of men, these gatherings provided intellectual stimulation for participants.

Fuller was by no means the only American woman to achieve literary success in the period before the Civil War. At a time when women made up a large part of the national readership, women such as Lydia Maria Child, Susan Warner, Sarah Parker Willis, Emily Dickinson, and Sarah Whitman wrote novels and poetry, and all but Dickinson achieved popular acclaim. Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin was by far the most successful book of the century, selling more copies in the United States than any other book except the Bible. Fuller was distinctive, however, in that she ventured into the world of philosophy and social commentary--a realm dominated by men. A major figure of Transcendentalism, she attended meetings with Emerson and other male intellectuals and edited the Transcendentalist publication The Dial from 1840 to 1842. Sharing the other Transcentalists' interest in the importance of the individual, Fuller reminded readers that women were individuals, too, and encouraged women to join the Transcendentalist movement. It has been said that Fuller claimed for women the same principles that Emerson claimed for men.


"The Great Lawsuit"


© Mark Canada, 1997

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