American Philosophy

New England Transcendentalists

Who was Margaret Fuller?

We have attempted to hold together two states of civilization: a higher state, where labor and the tenure of land and the right of suffrage are democratical; and a lower state, in which the old military tenure of prisoners or slaves, and of power and land in a few hands, makes an oligarchy…. But the rude and early state of society does not work well with the later, nay, works badly, and has poisoned politics, public morals, and social intercourse in the Republic, now for many years.

Margaret Fuller (1810–1850) organized weekly Saturday conversations with women in Boston to supplement their education and discuss their condition in society. She cofounded The Dial with Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882) in 1840, which was the official Transcendentalist publication for four years. Fuller left the magazine in 1842 to write for the New York Tribune.

Fuller interviewed intellectuals for the Tribune in England and Italy in 1846, including George Sand, Thomas Carlyle, and the Italian revolutionary Giovanni Ossoli, with whom she fell in love. The couple had a child and married. The entire family drowned in a sea accident while returning to the United States, when their ship hit a sandbar one hundred yards away from Fire Island.

Fuller’s main work is Woman in the Nineteenth Century (1845) in which she argued for women’s independence and equality between the sexes. Her great-nephew was the twentieth-century architect of geodesic domes, Buckminster Fuller.


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