Margaret Fuller

On this date in 1810, Margaret Fuller was born in Massachusetts, the first of nine children. Fuller became one of the foremost 19th-century women writers and critics. When her father died in 1835, she assumed financial headship of the family, teaching at Bronson Alcott’s Temple School. She translated Goethe and became editor of the Transcendentalist publication The Dial for two years under Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Her first book, Summer on the Lakes, was published in 1844, in which she observed the missionary harm to native Americans in the Midwest. At age 34, she became the first woman staff member of the New York Tribune, opening the doors of journalism to women and often writing of women’s needs.

Woman in the Nineteenth Century, in the vein of Mary Wollstonecraft‘s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, came out in 1845: “Women are, indeed, the easy victims both of priestcraft and self-delusion; but this would not be, if the intellect was developed in proportion to the other powers.” As a foreign correspondent for Horace Greeley, Fuller traveled to Europe, where she befriended Italian republican revolutionary Giuseppe Mazzini.

Living in Rome, she met a handsome younger nobleman. They married secretly and had a son in 1848. When the republican cause was lost, they sailed to America, and were tragically drowned in a shipwreck on July 19, 1850, 50 yards from shore.

Her Memoirs, published posthumously, was bowdlerized by the Unitarian minister William Henry Channing, who put them together, according to biographer Bell Gale Chevigny. Chevigny documented pious salutations, such as “O Father,” inserted into Fuller’s words to soften irreverencies. Chevigny’s book, The Woman and the Myth, Margaret Fuller’s Life and Writings, restores Fuller’s original words. A possible Deist at most, Fuller wrote in 1842: “You see how wide the gulf that separates me from the Christian Church.” (D. 1850)

Freedom From Religion Foundation