Margaret Fuller (1810 - 1850) was a writer and an advocate for women's rights, including women's education and the right to employment; she also encouraged prison reform and the emancipation of slaves in the United States. Susan B. Anthony, and other advocates for women's rights, including Virginia Woolf, were inspired and influenced by the work of Margaret Fuller. Megan Marshall, the award-winning author of The Peabody Sisters, presents a powerful portrait of a true pioneer in the biography, Margaret Fuller: A New American Life, published in 2013.
"She insisted too that her ideas be valued as high as those of the brilliant men who were her comrades."
~ Margaret Fuller: A New American Life, Megan Marshall
Born in Cambridge, MA, Sarah Margaret Fuller Ossoli, usually known as Margaret Fuller, was the first full-time American female book reviewer in journalism, and a transcendentalist. Home-schooled in a rigorous fashion as a child by her father, Timothy Fuller, she later attended school outside of her home, and eventually became a teacher.
"Today a reader, tomorrow a leader."
Starting in 1839, she began hosting "Conversations", discussions among women on various topics (the first one focused on Greek and Roman mythology), which encouraged women to communicate with each other in a candid way, and were early consciousness-raising groups for women. She became the first editor of Henry David Thoreau's transcendentalist journal, The Dial, in 1840, and a few years later, in 1844, she joined the staff of the New York Tribune under Horace Greeley. Her influential work, available as a free ebook on Project Gutenberg, Woman in the Nineteenth Century, was published in 1845 (other books by Margaret Fuller are also available online). This book is considered to be the first major feminist work in the United States.
Margaret Fuller became the first female correspondent in Europe for the Tribune, and she became involved with the Revolutions of 1848 in the Italian states. She had a romantic relationship with a younger man, Giovanni Ossoli, and they had a child together. Sadly, the family of three died in a shipwreck off Fire Island, New York, in 1850, when Margaret Fuller was 40 years old.
Through extensive research which included the reading of her letters, journals, and published work, Megan Marshall brings Margaret Fuller to life. Throughout her life, Margaret Fuller was a prolific letter writer who "maintained important correspondences" with transcendental thinkers of her time, including Ralph Waldo Emerson (who I've envisioned like Thoreau, walking alone in the woods, contemplating human nature in nature). She was friends with many intellectuals, including Emerson, Thoreau, the Peabody sisters, the Alcotts, Carlyle, and Mazzini.
As I read this biography, I became familiar with Margaret Fuller's manner of speaking and expression of ideas, and I felt as if I were getting to know her beyond a superficial level, as is often the case when we read the personal letters of others, which are filled with thought and feeling. I also discovered her innate, articulated need to express herself--'a mind that insisted on utterance'--and to go beyond self to help others, especially women.
"If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it."
Margaret Fuller was truly a woman ahead of her time, who believed that women deserved to be seen as the equals of men, and that marriage should be egalitarian (or at least more egalitarian). Margaret Fuller: A New American Life is an impressive, well-crafted biography, which features some finely-detailed pictures. It's a brilliant choice for anyone interested in learning about the life of this remarkable writer and pioneer.
Exciting news for my readers! Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is generously offering a copy of Margaret Fuller: A New American Life as a giveaway (U.S./Canada only).
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Special thanks to Lisa from TLC for sending me an advance copy of this book. For additional reviews and other features, please visit the other stops on TLC's book tour of Margaret Fuller: A New American Life.