HAPPY 207th BIRTHDAY, MARGARET FULLER
By Joseph Jay Deiss, Christian Science Monitor, January 21, 1974
These are days when Margaret Fuller, America's first liberated woman, may well come into her own at last — that full flowering she found so impossible even in transcendental New England. The current rediscovery of Margaret coincides with the demands of our times. She was a woman who defied a man's world to express herself as a woman. In her short life (1810-1850) she did her "own thing" in Cambridge, in Boston, in New York, in Europe — to the horror of many and the delight of some.
Always candid about her feelings, she wrote to her friend William Henry Channing - "I love best to be a woman, but womanhood at present is too straitly bound to give me scope. At hours I live truly as a woman, at others I stifle. . . Men disappoint me so. I weary in this playground of boys! . . . I wish I were a man and then there would be one."
Margaret stretched the bounds of 19th-century womanhood to its limits. Her life was full of firsts for an American woman. She was the first woman to be admitted to the Harvard College library. She was the first woman in a public position to deplore the evil treatment of red men. As editor of the transcendentalist Dial, she was the first woman magazine editor. As crusading columnist and critic for Horace Greeley's New York Tribune, she was not only the first woman journalist but the first paid literary critic of either sex. Traveling abroad for Greeley, she was the first woman foreign correspondent.
Her dispatches covering the French siege of Rome in 1849 made her the first woman war correspondent. She became an underground agent of the exiled Italian patriot Giuseppe Mazzini, and thus the first American woman partisan in a foreign revolution. Her book, Woman in the Nineteenth Century (1845), was the first vigorous plea for women's rights in America; it was a sensation.
It could not have failed to vex and stir her contemporaries when she flatly demanded “We would have every arbitrary barrier thrown down. We would have every path laid open to Woman as freely as to Man.” One of her extraordinary insights especially enraged the male chauvinists of her time. “There is no wholly masculine man, no purely feminine woman.”