Monday, May 20, 2013

Margaret Fuller ~ A New American Life: Review and Giveaway

Was Margaret Fuller America's first true feminist? 

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."
~Margaret Fuller

Highly intelligent, she was a precocious and voracious reader, and by the time she was in her 30s, she was known as the best-read person in New England.  She was confident and competent, and she didn't allow others to 'erode her enthusiastic confidence of the future'.

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.

If you've ever entertained the idea that people who lived in the 1800s were perhaps deeper thinkers than people today, this book will reaffirm that belief.  This biography gives Margaret Fuller an eloquent voice and presence, by using many of her written words, in quotes. The use of Margaret Fuller's own words, extracted from her letters, journals and work, allows her to tell her own story--this book is almost like an autobiography. (I believe it may be more truthful because it was largely created by the subject's exact words.)  I experienced her profound, astonishing intelligence, and vivacious, sociable personality, in an intimate fashion.  In addition to the quotes throughout the text, many of the chapter titles are quotes from Margaret Fuller's writing.

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

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).

  • To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment.
  • For another chance at winning, become a follower of this blog, or let me know that you're already a follower.
  • For an additional chance, post about this giveaway on your blog, Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter.

Enter by 5 PM PDT on Monday, June 3.  One winner will be selected randomly and announced on Tuesday, June 4.  Good luck! 


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.

31 comments:

  1. Sounds like a very worthwhile biography, Suko. I h had never heard of her before.

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  2. I have heard of Fuller, she comes up all the time when one reads American History of that era, but my knowledge of her life has been less then rudimentary.She seems to have been a monumentally important figure in what I would describe as the emergence of a society that become concerned with equality on many levels.

    Looks to be a great biography.

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  3. This book would be fascinating and unforgettable. Thanks for this lovely giveaway. I am an e-mail subscriber. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

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  4. This feature is extremely interesting and learning abut this woman was great. Many thanks for this chance. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  5. I liked this book so very much and just thought everyone/woman I know needs to read this biography - I felt so strongly I gave a copy to each of my 3 daughters.

    I like your strong words about this book too and thank you for writing on my review. I have a copy of this book also from the publisher, so no need to enter me into the giveaway!

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    1. How great to give each of your daughters a copy of this book! Thanks for stopping by, Patricia!

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  6. Margaret Fuller sounds like a fascinating woman!

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  7. You did a superb job of this review Suko.

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  8. Being indirect descendant of a women's right's pioneer and having a close friend who is a direct descendent of Susan B. Anthony, I am very interested in reading this book.

    CarolNWong(at)aol(dot)com

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  9. I follow your blog with GFC.


    CarolNWong(at)aol(dot)com

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  10. I tweeted: http://t.co/2e04mBfrpW

    CarolNWong(at)aol(dot)com

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  11. Thanks for being a part of this tour! I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page today.

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  12. I'm not familiar with this one, but happy to have learned about it here.

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  13. What a great woman she was ! I'll remember this book and try to read it in a few time. Thanks Suko for your post.

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  14. More familiar with the English suffragettes I'm intrigued to learn more about Margaret Fuller. Wonderful review, thanks for the recommendation of what sounds like a comprehensive read.

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    1. Petty, I need to become more familiar with the English suffragettes. Thanks for stopping by!

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  15. This book was already on my "to read" list, as well as Fuller's own work. So glad you've brought this to your readers! (BTW, I am already a subscriber, and I will Tweet now.)

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    1. I appreciate the tweet, Kathy. Thanks!

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  16. Great inspiring review!!!! Bravo!!

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  17. I love this era, and have some knowledge of Margaret Fuller. But I didn't know this book was coming out, I've added to my TBR as it sounds like a must read! I love the quotes you've shared, especially the first one, of course. I am so glad that there is this kind of comprehensive look at her; she is so often overlooked in favour of all the men of her era. Can't wait to read this...and I'll share your review & giveaway on twitter as well.

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  18. Suko, this sounds fantastic. I've heard of Margaret Fuller before, but don't know too much about her. This sounds like a great book because like you mention, her own personal letters are included. Wonderful review!

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  19. So interesting to read about a contemporary of Emerson and Thoreau!

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  20. sounds intriguing.
    thanks for the giveaway!
    i follow you thru bloglovin, and here is my tweet:
    https://twitter.com/wordsandpeace/status/337206596050493441
    Emma @ Words And Peace [and France Book Tours!]
    ehc16e at yahoo dot com

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  21. oh I love the premise. I think I would absolutely love Margaret Fuller <3 that time period always interested me.
    Thank you for the giveaway!
    GFC follower already - Lily B
    Twitted: https://twitter.com/lilypondreads/status/337904531578974208

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  22. looks and sounds like a great read- I love books in that time period

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  23. following you with GFC and email-ejxd95@gmail.com

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