Margaret Fuller

Transcendentalist Writer and Editor

Margaret Fuller
Margaret Fuller. Stock Montage / Getty Images

Margaret Fuller Facts

Known for: Transcendentalist writer and editor whose life was tragically cut short in a shipwreck
Occupation: writer
Dates: May 23, 1810 – July 19, 1850
Also known as: Sarah Margaret Fuller (full birth name), Margaret Fuller Ossoli

Background, Family:

  • Mother: Margaret Crane
  • Father: Timothy Fuller, lawyer, Congressman

Education:

  • Primarily under the tutelage of her father in early childhood
  • Self-directed later

Marriage, Children:

  • Husband: Giovanni Angelo, marchese d’Ossoli (married, probably, in April or May of 1848)
  • One son, Angelo Eugene – born 1849, died 1850

Margaret Fuller Biography:

"Very early, I knew that the only object in life was to grow."

Margaret Fuller’s father, disappointed that she was not a son, educated her in what was then considered the masculine style. She was intellectually the superior of most if not all her contemporaries. (Ralph Waldo Emerson, a friend and colleague, made fun of her statement that "I now know all the people worth knowing in America, and I find no intellect comparable to my own." Of course, he felt like he was one of the exceptions!) She often found herself -- as many over-educated intelligent women have -- without peers, without enough challenge.

She came, as an adult, into the circle of people who would soon grow into the Transcendentalists.

She was hired as a teacher in Bronson Alcott's school, where fellow teacher Elizabeth Peabody became her close friend. She met the English author and reformer Harriet Martineau who introduced Fuller to Emerson. James Freeman Clarke and Henry Hedge were Harvard students who moved in many of the same intellectual circles as she did.

From 1839-1844, she earned a living by sponsoring her famous Conversations, to which were invited many of the educated women of Boston and surrounding areas -- wives of famous men like Emerson and Theodore Parker, but also women who were developing their own work and careers, often as writers. Included were Lydia Maria Child, Elizabeth and Sophia Peabody, Ellen and Caroline Sturgis. (A series involving both men and women failed to have the same lasting success as those attended just by women.)

Fuller contributed art and literary criticism to the Dial, published by the Transcendentalists, and became editor of that journal at its founding in 1840. The Dial was only published for four years, but was a turning point in American literary development.

She helped plan and develop Brook Farm, a utopian experiment; though she never lived there, she was a frequent visitor.

In 1842, when she tried to remove herself from editor of the Dial, Emerson volunteered to take over. But according to some sources, she continued to do most of the editing work until she left New England in 1840 to work on Horace Greeley's New York Tribune as literary critic.

In 1845, Fuller published Woman in the Nineteenth Century (see links below), considered now as a classic work of feminist writing.

In 1846, she took up an opportunity Greeley offered to serve in Europe as foreign correspondent with the Tribune.

In England, she met -- among many others -- the Italian revolutionist Mazzini, then in exile. After a stay in France, she went to Italy, where she involved herself in the cause itself. In 1847, her friends and family began to receive letters with a new buoyancy and enthusiasm: Margaret Fuller was in love. Her lover, Giovanni Angelo, Marchese d'Ossoli, helped draw Fuller into revolutionary activism. By 1848, she was pregnant; after several months spent with their child, Angelo Eugene, Fuller left him with a nurse and returned to Rome and her lover.  Whether they were married in 1848 is a matter of some dispute.

The Republic that she and Ossoli had been involved in creating was defeated in 1849, and Fuller, Ossoli, and their child fled to Florence.

She began writing a history of the revolution. She claimed in letters to have married Ossoli; the exact date and place are in doubt, and some scholars suggest that the marriage was invented to ease her return to society in America.

With husband and child, Fuller sailed to New York. Tragically, just a few hours outside harbor, a storm drove the ship onto a sandbar. Just a few hundred feet from shore, the ship broke apart. The child's body was later found; neither Fuller's nor Ossoli's ever was.

Religion:  Unitarian (Transcendentalist)