Margaret Fuller (1810-1850): The transcendental activist

By Deborah O’Rell Margaret Fuller (1810-1850) was a life long advocate for women’s rights. This was a woman who truly walked the walk. She was influential in changing perceptions about men and women. In forging a unique and amazing life path, she argued for equal rights for women. Her life choices embodied the independent woman and encouraged women to be less dependent on men.

Fortunately for Margaret, her parents believed strongly in education for ALL. Margaret was schooled in the same rigorous manner aspiring young men were challenged to at that time. She learned to read at 3 years old. Over her lifetime she studied and taught French, German, Latin, Italian and Greek.

She was the first woman to be granted entry into several ‘male-only’ bastions. One was Harvard Library where she read and studied. And another breakthrough was her acceptance as the first female member of the Transcendentalists.

Transcendental philosophy emphasizes the intuitive and spiritual above the empirical. We are all connected in ways one cannot see or touch but intuitively feel. Think Emerson’s “Nature” or Thoreau’s “Walden: (Or Life in the Woods)”. She held ‘Conversations’, salons would be another descriptive name, on various topics, primarily for women, which became very popular in Boston in 1839. People were enthralled with and entertained by her speaking and she became very well known for it.

In addition to public speaking, lecturing and languages, she wrote extensively. She was the editor of The Dial, the philosophical magazine. Her important writings include ‘The Great Lawsuit: Man versus Men; Woman versus Women” and “Summer on the Lakes” after an extensive trip exploring the West.

She traveled to Europe as a reporter for the New York Tribune. She met a much younger man, Marchese Giovanni Angelo d’Ossoli, and had a baby out of wedlock with him. After some time, they eventually married and she returned to America.

On the trip back, their boat crashed just off Fire Island and she, her husband and child died. Her body was never found.

Her life was dedicated to awakening all to the inner self and that we are all equal.