Many people associate Margaret Fuller with the American transcendentalism movement (The term Transcendentalism was derived from the philosopher Kant, who called "all knowledge transcendental which is concerned not with objects but with our mode of knowing objects"), especially because she moved in those circles with well-known figures such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Bronson Alcott, Elizabeth Peabody, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. In fact, several of those authors (they were also her "friends") modeled some of their characters after her.
Here's an example of Fuller's transcendentalism:
"We will worship by impromptu symbols, till the religion is framed for all Humanity. The beauty grows around us daily, the trees are now all in blossom and some of the vines; there is a Crown Imperial just in perfection, to which I paid my evening worship by the light of the fire, which reached to us, and there are flashes of lightening too."(Letter IV to James Nathan)She's even a student of Emanuel Swedenborg (one of my heros)! She quotes him and positively refers to his spiritual experiences and understandings in some of her writings (see this link for one such article I found, curtesy of Googlebooks).
Between what I learned from Rev Terry and my own research, I discovered that Fuller wore many hats --- she was an American journalist, a women's rights advocate, a war correspondent, a teacher, and a mother. Among her accomplishments:
- First American to write a book about equality for women, the landmark book "Woman in the Nineteenth Century"
- Learned Latin at age 6, Greek at age 10, and went on to learn other languages including German and Italian
- By the time she was in her 30s, Fuller had earned a reputation as the best-read person in New England, male or female
- First editor of "The Dial" (the top Transcendentalist journal of the time), appointed by Ralph Waldo Emerson
- First woman to be allowed to enter Harvard Library
- First woman journalist on Horace Greeley's "New York Daily Tribune"
- Advocated reform at all levels of society, including prison, the homeless, and the rights of Native Americans and African Americans
- Stayed overnight in Sing Sing Prison, interviewing women prisoners and encouraging a more humane system for its women inmates
- First woman literary critic who also set literary standards, especially as a book reviewer
- First woman foreign correspondent and war correspondent to serve under combat conditions
- In the summer of 1843, she traveled to Chicago, Milwaukee, Niagara Falls and Buffalo, New York: while there, she interacted with several Native Americans, including members of the Ottawa and the Chippewa tribes. She reported her experiences in a book called "Summer on the Lakes"
- Took part in the Italian revolution as a nurse while her husband fought in the stuggle.
Fuller was an incredible woman who traveled widely, was out-spoken about her beliefs and experiences, and entered frontiers that women of that time did not dare to tiptoe near. She helped educate the women of her day by leading a series of "Conversations" in which women were empowered to read, think and discuss important issues of the day. She empowered generations of women (and men) to explore intelligiently, especially through her ground-breaking writings and experiences.
By now, you have probably noticed that Fuller was an unconventional woman and seemed to have an uncanny ability to attract the unusual. She certainly had a life full of many adventures, and with that list of amazing accomplishments listed above, I was somewhat surprised to learn that Margaret Fuller only lived 40 years on the earth plane. She was born in 1810 in Cambridgeton, Massuchessetts and died in 1850 (as I will detail below).
Here's something else I found out (as an intuitive, this is of special interest to me): She had premonitional feelings about her death. Early on in the year of her death (1850), Fuller wrote to a friend: "It has long seemed that in the year 1850 I should stand on some important plateau in the ascent of life ... I feel however no marked and important change as yet." Also that year, Fuller wrote: "I am absurdly fearful and various omens have combined to give me a dark feeling ... It seems to me that my future upon earth will, soon close ... I have a vague expectation of some crisis—I know not what".
Fuller was correct --- a few days after writing this, she began a five-week return voyage from Italy to the United States aboard an American merchant freighter carrying cargo. Her husband and their one-year-old son traveled with her.
As they crossed the Atlantic Ocean, their ship captain died of small-pox and the inexperienced first mate took over. Fuller and her family never made it to their destination. They died with land in sight in a tragic shipwreck off of Fire Island, NY. A memorial was erected on Fire Island for Margaret Fuller and her long-time friend Emerson composed the inscription:
By birth a child of New England
By adoption a citizen of Rome
By genius belonging to the world
I plan to learn more about this incredible woman. And here's my opportunity AND YOURS!!! For as Margaret Fuller stated "If you have knowledge, let others light their candle with it" --- I have knowledge of a Margaret Fuller re-enactment performance to share with you.
On Thursday March 10th, tribute artist and author Laurie James (from NYC) will present “Men, Women and Margaret Fuller”, an orginal solo drama about this brilliant woman who shaped philosophical, literary, and social dialogue in America’s early 19th Century.
The performance will take place at 7:00 pm at The 1891 Fredonia Opera House in Fredonia NY and is sponsored by The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Northern Chautauqua. Tickets are available by calling the Opera House at (716) 679-1891.
I hope to see some of you at the Opera House for the Fuller re-enactment! May Fuller’s life inspire us to deepen and expand the living of our own lives!!!
Links about Margaret Fuller:
http://fredopera.org/home/men_women_and_margaret_fuller for tickets