because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Margaret Fuller

Known in her time for being "overly self-confident" and having a bad temper, Margaret Fuller was a journalist and critic in the mid-1800's whose work pushed for women's rights in general and women's education and access to employment opportunities in particular, as well as for the abolition of slavery and a better perspective on how Native Americans had been ill-used by the European takeover. Reputed to be the "best read person in New England, Fuller was the first woman to be allowed to use the library at Harvard University, the first editor of Henry David Thoreau's trancendentialist journal, The Dial, and the first woman editor of Horace Greeley's New York Tribune.

Writing early "I have not felt that I was born to the common womanly lot" and later "I wish woman to live first for God's sake; then she will not make an imperfect man her god and thus sink to idolatry," she was said to be the inspiration for Hester Prynne, Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel about a woman with Fuller's personality who becomes a single mother. Indeed, when Fuller was dispatched to Rome by the Tribune in her late thirties, she did, in fact, became embroiled in the Italian revolution, fall in love and have a baby without getting married.

Though considered by many to be brilliant, Fuller was also bitterly criticized -- especially for her unapologetic castigation of men and their power. And after she drowned at the age of forty while returning to the United States from Italy, she was pushed aside and largely buried in the dust of the ages. But her book entitled Woman in the Nineteenth Century was noted by Edgar Allen Poe for its "unmitigated radicalism," originally appeared in serial form as "The Great Lawsuit: Man versus Men, Woman versus Women" and inspired many of the earliest feminist thinkers including Susan B. Anthony, who wrote that Fuller "possessed more influence on the thought of American women than any woman previous to her time." In-your-face women are in-your-face, even in obscurity.

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