Sue Young Histories

Margaret Fuller 1810 - 1850

April 11, 2008

Margaret Fuller 1810
-1850Margaret Fuller 1810 -1850 was a journalist, critic and women’s rights activist, and a supporter of homeopathy.

Margaret Fuller was an active supporter of homeopathy and at the centre of a social circle glittered with homeopaths and their supporters, including Caroline Wells Healey Dall, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Moncure Daniel Conway, Mercy Bisbee Jackson, Carolina Maria Seymour Severance, the Wesselhoeft family, Lucretia Coffin Mott, Theodore Parker, Bronson Alcott, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, Mary Gove Nichols, Mary Baker Eddy and Paulina Kellogg Wright Davis.

Fuller was also part of the intelligentsia who gathered around James T Fields, one of America’s most famous publisher of American writers, and a partner in Ticknor and Fields, had a bookstore known as Parnassus Corner on Old Corner.

His literary salon was packed with the influential people of the time, including Louisa May Alcott, John Greenleaf Whittier, Thomas Bailey Aldrich, James Russell Lowell, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Julia Ward Howe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Mark Twain, Margaret Fuller, William Makepeace Thackeray, Charles Dickens, Matthew Arnold, Robert Browning, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Bret Harte, Bayard Taylor, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Edwin Booth, and Nathaniel Parker Willis, who described Parnassus Corner as ‘the hub in which every spoke of the radiating wheel of Boston intellect had a socket..

Fuller would also have known all of the homeopaths and homeopathic supporters who frequented Elizabeth Palmer Peabody’s Foreign Library: Wendell Phillips, Henry Ward Beecher, Susan B Anthony, Julia Ward Howe, Josephine S Griffing, Theodore Dwight Weld and the Grimke Sisters, William Lloyd Garrison, Parker Pillsbury, Theodore Parker, Clemence Lozier, Charlotte Denman Lozier, Gerrit Smith, Wendell Phillips, Frederick Douglass, Julia Ward Howe, William Lloyd Garrison, Hamilton Wilcox, Emily Howard Jennings Stowe, Susan B Anthony, Clara Barton, Phoebe Ann (Coffin) Hanaford, Moncure Daniel Conway, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, Sarah Orne Jewett, the Houghtons, George Palmer Putnam, William Cullen Bryant, William Ellery Channing, Ellery Channing, George and Sophia Ripley, Orestes Brownson, James Freeman Clarke, John Sullivan Dwight, Paulina Kellogg Wright Davis, Ednah Dow Cheney, the Bartlett’s, the Wesselhoefts, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Gerrit Smith, Frederick Douglass, Hamilton Wilcox, Emily Howard Jennings Stowe, and many others.

Fuller’s younger sister Ellen Fuller married Ellery Channing. Fuller also knew homeopaths Christopher M Weld, James Garth Wilkinson and Robert Wesselhoeft.

n 1842, Margaret Fuller translated Bettina von Arnim’s Goethe’s Correspondence with a Child, and Bettina von Arnim’s ardent support and personal involvement with homeopathy spread throughout this influential group.

Fuller prescribed homeopathic remedies to her friends and she referred to homeopathy in her writing:

But if they have this fine sense, also, for the qualities of animal and mineral substances, there is no reason why they should not turn bane to antidote, and prescribe at least homeopathic doses of poison, to restore the diseased to health.

In 1836 she taught at the (Bronson Alcott’s) Temple School (alongside Elizabeth Palmer Peabody) in Boston and from 1837 to 1839 taught in Providence, Rhode Island.

Fuller became friends with Ralph Waldo Emerson and became one of the leaders of the movement known as transcendentalism.

In 1839 she began organizing “conversations”, discussions amongst local women, in the parlor in the home of the Peabody’s in Boston. Held every Saturday at noon, Fuller intended these meetings to compensate for the lack of education for women and discussions and debates focused on a variety of subjects, such as mythology, art, education and women’s rights.

A number of significant figures in the women’s rights movement attended these “conversations”.

[Peabody’s Foreign Library quickly became a kind of salon for the New England Transcendentalists](

Margaret Fuller’s famous “conversations” were held at West Street in late 1839 and the early 1840s. William Ellery Channing, the “father of Unitarianism” and Elizabeth Palmer Peabody’s mentor, came to read the newspaper. George and Sophia Ripley, Orestes Brownson, Theodore Parker, James Freeman Clarke, John Sullivan Dwight, and others talked over the reform of society and planned the Brook Farm community there.

Ideas brought up in these discussions were developed in Fuller’s major works, ”The Great Lawsuit” and Woman in the Nineteenth Century (1845), which argue for the independence of women and the necessity of changing the unequal gender relationships of nineteenth-century society.

Fuller edited the transcendentalist journal, The Dial for the first two years of its existence from 1840 to 1842.

Publishing some of her most experimental essays, Fuller was able to feminize Ralph Waldo Emerson’s paradigm of “self-reliance” (founded upon the intuition of a divine energy within) by arguing that men and women contain powerful female energies as well. (Ralph Waldo Emerson had argued for the intuition of “God within.“)

When Fuller moved to New York and joined Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune as literary critic in 1844, she became the first full-time book reviewer in journalism and, by 1846, was the publications first female editor.

In her front-page columns—signed with a ’*‘—Fuller discussed a wide range of topics, ranging from art and literature to the reform of society…

Fuller was sent to Europe in 1846 by the New York Tribune, specifically England and Italy, as its first female foreign correspondent. There she interviewed many prominent writers including George Sand and Thomas Carlyle — whom she found disappointing, due to his reactionary politics amongst other things.

Fuller’s first-hand accounts of England, France, and Italy provided powerful analyses of societies poised on the brink of revolution (which broke out in France and Italy in 1848).

In Italy she met the Italian revolutionary Giovanni Ossoli who had been disinherited by his family. Fuller and Ossoli had a child together named Angelo and the couple moved in together in Florence, Italy, likely before they were married.

They may have gotten married in 1847. The couple supported Giuseppe Mazzini’s revolution for the establishment of a Roman Republic in 1849 — he fought in the struggle while Fuller volunteered to run a supporting hospital.

During this period, Florence Nightingale visited Fuller and Rome to pick up lessons on hospital management.

Fuller, Ossoli, and their child were completing a five-week return voyage to the United States aboard the ship Elizabeth when, on July 18, 1850 around 3:30 a.m., the ship slammed into a sandbar about one hundred yards away from Fire Island, New York. The family did not survive.

Henry David Thoreau traveled to New York, at the urging of Ralph Waldo Emerson, to search the shore but neither Fuller’s body nor that of her husband were ever recovered; only the child Angelino had washed ashore.

Among the articles lost was Fuller’s manuscript on the history of the Roman Republic. Many of her writings were collected together by her brother Arthur as At Home and Abroad (1856) and Life Without and Life Within (1858).

Her memorial is in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Fuller was the great aunt of Buckminster Fuller.

Margaret Fuller was likely the inspiration for the character Hester Prynne in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter, specifically her radical thinking about “the whole race of womanhood”. She may also be the basis for the character Zenobia in one of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s other works, The Blithedale Romance.

She was also an inspiration to poet Walt Whitman, who believed in her call for the forging of a new national identity and a truly American literature.

Fuller, however, was not without her critics. The influential editor Rufus Wilmot Griswold, who believed she went against his notion of feminine modesty, referred to _Woman in the Nineteenth Century_ as “an eloquent expression of her discontent at having been created female”.


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