Woman in the Nineteenth Century

Courier Corporation, 1999 M01 26 - 132 páginas

A woman of many gifts, Margaret Fuller (1810–1850) is most aptly remembered as America's first true feminist. In her brief yet fruitful life, she was variously author, editor, literary and social critic, journalist, poet, and revolutionary. She was also one of the few female members of the prestigious Transcendentalist movement, whose ranks included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and many other prominent New England intellectuals of the day. As co-editor of the transcendentalist journal, The Dial, Fuller was able to give voice to her groundbreaking social critique on woman's place in society, the genesis of the book that was later to become Woman in the Nineteenth Century. Published in 1843, this essay was entitled "The Great Lawsuit: Man versus Men, Woman versus Women."
First published in book form in 1845, Woman in the Nineteenth Century was correctly perceived as the controversial document that it was: receiving acclaim and achieving popular success in some quarters (the first printing sold out within a week), at the same time that it inspired vicious attacks from opponents of the embryonic women's movement. In this book, whose style is characterized by the trademark textual diversity of the transcendentalists, Fuller articulates values arising from her passionate belief in justice and equality for all humankind, with a particular focus on women. Although her notion of basic rights certainly includes those of an educational, economic, and legal nature, it is intellectual expansion and changes in the prevailing attitudes towards women (by men and women) that Fuller cherishes far above the superficial manifestations of liberation. A classic of feminist thought that helped bring about the Seneca Falls Women's Convention three years after its publication, Woman in the Nineteenth Century inspired her contemporaries Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony to speak of Fuller as possessing "more influence upon the thought of American women than any woman previous to her time."


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Born in Cambridgeport, Massachusetts, young Fuller was subjected to a severe educational regimen by her father, who was determined to treat his daughter's mind no differently from that of the son he had desired. By the age of eight, Fuller was reading the Latin classics and was soon proficient in several modern European languages. She was especially interested in modern German literature, a passion that brought her to the attention of the New England Transcendentalists, who were attempting at the time to redefine human experiences. With Ralph Waldo Emerson, she founded, and for a while edited, The Dial (1840--1842), the quarterly magazine of literature, philosophy, and religion that had grown out of the meetings of the Transcendental Club in Boston. Also about this time, she began conducting a series of Saturday afternoon "Conversations," discussions of intellectual and literary topics that soon gained great popularity, especially among upper-middle-class Boston women. From these experiences developed her advanced feminist views as elucidated in Woman in the Nineteenth Century (1845). In 1844 Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, one of the most important newspapers in the nation, hired her to join his staff, and, during the next two years in New York, Fuller gained national prominence as a critic of art and literature. Some of her essays were reprinted in Papers on Literature and Art (1846), one of the most astute works of criticism to appear in the United States before the Civil War. In August 1846, Fuller sailed for Europe, where she was to act as correspondent for the Tribune. These were tumultuous, revolutionary times in Europe, and Fuller soon added her voice to the republican cause that was challenging the established, reactionary political order throughout the Continent. In Italy she met and later married a young aristocrat, Giovanni Angelo, the Marchese Ossoli, a follower of the Italian revolutionary leader, Giuseppe Mazzini. Following the failure of the newly proclaimed Roman Republic in 1849, Fuller, together with her husband and their son, decided to return to the United States, where she could see through the press the history that she had written of the Roman Revolution of 1848--1849. Tragically, however, the family was lost at sea when their vessel sank off Fire Island, near New York, in July 1850. Fuller's personality and activities generated much interest and strong disagreement, both during her lifetime and since. Her most enduring writing is not her published essays and books but, rather, her personal correspondence, in which the vitality of her mind and the strength of her character are brilliantly revealed.

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