MARGARET FULLER - PIONEERING WOMAN
by Dr. Lawrence Wilson
© March 2017, L.D. Wilson Consultants, Inc.
All information in this article is for educational purposes only. It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.
One of the most influential women of the 19th century was Margaret Fuller. She was a fiery advocate of equal rights for women, and especially wanted women to become educated just as much as men. Some consider her the forerunner of the modern women’s movement in America. She wrote a book entitled Women In The 19th Century that is still an excellent book to read for any woman today.
She also firmly opposed slavery in America and everywhere else, and championed more humane treatment of prisoners and the poor. These are the things she wants to be remembered for.
Margaret, as she loved to be called, was born on May 10, 1810 near present-day Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. Her father was a local attorney and politician, while her mother was a homemaker. They were not wealthy, but there was usually enough food on the table and the family enjoyed living in the area of Boston, in America.
Margaret was a bright child, but she said she was not brilliant. Her father, however, insisted that she learn everything that a man would learn, including Latin, other languages, history, science and religion. He was quite harsh about it, causing Margaret to experience headaches and nightmares related to learning things. In spite of this, she persisted with her studies. In fact, at one time she was dubbed “the most well-read person in New England among women and men.”
Margaret loved learning, teaching and writing. She worked at several jobs as an editor, a writer and a teacher. These earned her respect, and she earned money that the family badly needed after her father died and left the family with very little. Often, she was the first woman to hold type of her job, and she excelled at them.
Two of these positions were most prestigious. She was asked by Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of the most eminent writers in America at the time, to edit his magazine, The Dial. After working there for a few years, she accepted a position as an editor at the New York Herald Tribune, then a leader in publishing the news.
WORK WITH WOMEN
Although she greatly enjoyed her writing and editing jobs, Margaret’s real fame came from her work with women. Around 1850, she began holding “Conversations” with groups of middle-class women throughout New England, and later in New York and in Europe.
The goals of these classes were:
1. To educate women about the issues of the day.
2. To help the women feel confident in speaking out and discussing these complex issues
3. To encourage them to become more educated about everything.
Margaret felt that this was her greatest contribution to humanity. She, like her grand nephew, Richard Buckminster Fuller, felt that she “belonged to the universe. She said she was here to serve God and serve the world. Her work with women was her feeble attempt to do this. It was, she believed, her major contribution to the planet.
Early in her life, Margaret decided she would not marry because her father advised her against it. He told her she would just become an idle housewife like her mother (who was not idle!) She accepted the idea and did not marry until around the age of 40, when she also had a son by her new husband.
In fact, her marriage worked very well and she changed her mind about it completely. Her father had been wrong, in this case, and she regretted that she did not marry earlier, as she had several good offers.
Much, much more can be written about Margaret Fuller, and has been. This short article is just enough to hopefully cause you to pick up her book, Women In The Ninteenth Century or another of her works. Margaret died in a ship wreck just off the coast of New York on July 19, 1850.