Margaret Fuller, 1810-1850

  • Margaret-Fuller-WWP

Woman Category: Activism & Feminism, Literature & Poetry, and MediaWoman Tags: Author, Editor, Greater Boston Women, and Journalist

  • HerStory

    Journalist, critic, editor, translator, and women’s and civil rights advocate. The first female book reviewer in the US.

    Born as Sarah Margaret Fuller in Cambridge, MA. Her father, a lawyer and Congressman, was disappointed that his first child wasn’t a boy, so he provided her an education as if she was one, as well as forbidden her from reading “feminine” materials. At the age of 3, she learned to read and write, and at 5, she began learning Latin. At 9, Fuller began her formal education. Still, at 16, she felt that she is different from other girls her age, so she left school and came back home to continue studying independently, learning several languages, and reading world literature. In later years became to be known best-read person, male or female, in New England.
    At 24, Fuller published her first work – a response to historian George Bancroft, and a year later, she published her first literary review. When she was 27 years old, she began to teach under the journalist and educator Hiram Fuller and was paid $1,000 per year, an unusually high salary at the time. In 1939, 29-year-old Fuller decided to use her knowledge to educate women, so she gathered them and held what she called “Conversations”. These lectures were more like open discussions aiming to promote women’s education, focusing on subjects such as arts, literature, history, mythology, and nature. The goal of the conversations was to question, examine, and define women’s options. That same year, Fuller started to edit the transcendentalist journal “The Dial”, which made her an important figure of the Transcendental Movement, though she never identified herself as one.
    At the age of 34, Fuller published the book “Summer on the Lakes” in it she described her experiences traveling throughout the US and interacting with various Native-Americans tribes. The next book Fuller published was “Woman in the Nineteenth Century”, where she discussed women’s role in the US. The book became one of the most important works in American feminism and considered first of its kind.
    Fuller moved to NYC to work as a literary critic at the “New York Tribune”, she was the first full-time female book reviewer in the US, and two years later she became the first female editor of the magazine. During the four years she worked there, Fuller published over 250 columns regarding different topics, from art and literature to women’s rights and the plight of slaves.
    At 36, she was sent to Europe as the newspaper’s foreign correspondent, where she met many important figures, including Giovanni Angelo Ossoli, an Italian revolutionary who was ten years younger than her. They became a couple and moved to Florence, Italy. It is unknown whether they were officially married, though they were referred to as husband and wife, and had a son.
    In 1848, Fuller and her family sailed back to the US, but the ship hit a Sandbank close to the shore of Fire Island, NY. Most of the passengers and crew jumped and were rescued, but the bodies of the Fuller family have never been found.
    Margaret Fuller was one of the first active feminists; she promoted women’s education and employment opportunities, encouraged women to be independent in their marriage, and not to rely only on their husbands. She was also a humanist, advocating for social reforms, addressing issues such as African-Americans’ rights, prison’s living conditions as well as poverty and homelessness. Many prominent leaders of the Suffrage Movement regard Fuller as one of the movement’s major influencers, as Susan B. Anthony wrote about her that she was “possessed more influence on the thought of American women than any woman previous to her time.”

    “There is no wholly masculine man, no purely feminine woman”

    “There is no wholly masculine man, no purely feminine woman”

    More Interesting Anecdotes:

    • She was the first woman allowed to use Harvard’s library.
    • She was the inspiration for the character Hester Prynne in the novel “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
    • She stayed the night at Sing Sing prison while interviewing female inmates.
    • Her book “Woman in the Nineteenth Century” is considered the first primary feminist work in the US.
    • Two years after her death, her brother published her biography, “The Memoirs of Margaret Fuller Ossoli”, which was a best-seller for years.


  • More About Her Legacy
    Creations By and About Her:

    * Books she wrote
    * Her biography


    * Inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame

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  • One of Her Landmarks

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  • Margaret Fuller: The Girl in the Transcendentalist Boy’s Club

    Rev. Jane Page
    October 22, 2017

  • Photo credit - WWP team.