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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 critiue 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 WomenFirst 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 uarters 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 euality 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 influence upon the thought of American women than any woman previous to her time


10 thoughts on “Woman in the Nineteenth Century

  1. says:

    I had to read some of Margaret Fuller's work after finishing The Lives of Margaret Fuller recently Since I'm an ardent feminist I decided to start with Women in the Nineteenth CenturyI'll admit it's difficult to read Fuller was highly educated and brings in many references to classical works and current events that meant I often had to stop reading to check a reference on Wikipedia Even with the added knowledge her writing style is high 19th century style with outdated words and phrases that make it hard to plow through by a modern reader It reminded me of a section from her biography referenced above describing outsiders of her circle poking fun at the Transcendentalists They read Dante in the original Italian Goethe in the original German and Fuller in the original EnglishStyle asideThe first portion of this book is all foundational where Fuller describes ideals of women in general through the ages and gives examples of women living outside prescribed norms and their fatesThe real meat is in the last portion where she lays aside the work of others and actually speaks to the reader She argues that by making women the property of men society is not only depriving women of their full potential but also men of having eual partners Additionally she decries the idea that there are feminine ualities and masculine ualities and that men are not allowed to be feminine and women are not allowed to be masculine Particularly illustrating is her example of the girl who shows interest in carpentry tools but is told that such an endeavor is not intended for her sex As Fuller declares Let there be women sea captains if the women are so inclinedI think the next step is to find of Fuller's work preferably the essays she wrote for the Dial or her journalistic endeavors and follow her train of thought


  2. says:

    I find it amusing that this was written in the nineteenth century It is now the twenty first century and we still have not achieved everything Margaret Fuller wrote about in this essay This essay is about Feminism Feminism is the radical notion that women are people just like everyone else and should be treated as such


  3. says:

    Margaret Fuller 1810 1850 was one of the earliest American feminist writers She was also the coeditor of the Transcendentalist journal The Dial This book first published in 1845 is an expanded edition of an essay written in 1843 It's short but pretty dense and wide ranging covering a lot of historical and philosophical ground It's hard to tell sometimes which parts of the essays are central to her argument and which are tangents but I have selected some of my favorite parts below Man no longer paints his proper nature in some form and says 'Prometheus had it; it is God like;' but Man must have it; it is human However disputed by many however ignorantly used or falsified by those who do receive it the fact of an universal unceasing revelation has been too clearly stated in words to be lost sight of in thought; and sermons preached from the text 'Be ye perfect' are the only sermons of a pervasive and deep searching influence But among those who meditate upon this text there is a great difference of view as to the way in which perfection shall be sought She goes on to describe three different approaches to seeking wisdom intellectual activity; life experience; and contemplationA better comment could not be made on what is reuired to perfect Man and place him in that superior position for which he was designed than by the interpretation of Bacon upon the legends of the Syren coast When the wise Ulysses passed says he he caused his mariners to stop their ears with wax knowing there was in them no power to resist the lure of that voluptuous song But he the much experienced man who wished to be experienced in all and use all to the service of wisdom desired to hear the song that he might understand its meaning Yet distrusting his own power to be firm in his better purpose he caused himself to be bound to the mast that he might be kept secure against his own weakness But Orpheus passed unfettered so absorbed in singing hymns to the gods that he could not even hear those sounds of degrading enchantmentHuman beings are not so constituted that they can live without expansion If they do not get it in one way they must in another or perishThis author beginning like the many in assault upon bad institutions and external ills yet deepening the experience through comparative freedom sees at last that the only efficient remedy must come from individual character These bad institutions indeed it may always be replied prevent individuals from forming good character therefore we must remove them Agreed; yet keep steadily the higher aim in view Could you clear away all the bad forms of society it is vain unless the individual begin to be ready for betterAnother sign of the times is furnished by the triumphs of Female Authorship These have been great and are constantly increasing Women have taken possession of so many provinces for which men had pronounced them unfit that though these still declare there are some inaccessible to them it is difficult to say just where they must stop


  4. says:

    I had so very much hoped to be able to write a positive review of this rather lamentable book by Margaret Fuller who is a member of the great pantheon of literary freedom fighters that includes Byron Mickiewicz André Malraux Ernest Hemingway Martha Gellhorn and others Margaret Fuller was a New England transcendentalist and journalist who operated a hospital for Garibaldi's troops during the Second Italian War of Independence On the return voyage to the United States she died tragically along with her child when her boat sank She was only forty years oldFuller will go into history as a person whose writing did not match her greatness as a person Woman in the Nineteenth Century provides a dreadful literary legacy The Norton Edition which I read cites a contemporary critic who writes Nothing is or can be less artistic than the book before us which properly speaking is no book but a long talk on matters and things in general and men and women in particular It has neither beginning middle nor end and may be read backwards as well as forward and from the centre outwards each way without affecting the continuity of the thought and the succession of ideas p 213 By using this review the Norton Editors are presumably setting the stage for the professor who is teaching the book to launch a brilliant defense of it The gist of the argument offered to educators is that Fuller a disciple of Waldo Emerson has developed Emerson's ideas on human nature in an interestesting manner in Woman in the Nineteenth Century Good luck to educators with this line of defense The book stinks


  5. says:

    I solicit of women that they will lay it to heart to ascertain what is for them the liberty of lawI ask them if interested by these suggestions to search their own experience and intuitions for better and fill up with fit materials the trenches that hedge them inLet it not be said wherever there is energy or creative genius 'She has a masculine mind' This work is an odd mixture of very useful and very uselessborderline harmful prescriptions which I suppose can be said of any substantially aged text that was written in pursuit of rationalizing an ideal I didn't like it as much as I had hoped to but it is still immensely wise in parts even when Fuller doesn't follow through on the promising start of an intersectional idea and instead sinks down into wealthy white woman centric oblivion by the end of the text Very little of what she says can be stripped down for use in any ueer or postcolonial sense but she does hit upon some vital truths that even today are neither taken as law nor taken for granted and thus bear repeating until either those in power are made to acuiesce or ideals overthrow those obstinately remaining in bad faith out of power Fuller had a tempestuous existence that cut short her life far too soon and I can only wonder whether had she lived past her forties whether she would have matured to a fuller euitable definition of her vision of social justice as her admittedly truncated melding of feminism and anti slavery promises or would she have sunk like a Wordsworth after accomplishing so early what proved to be her best work As to marriage it has been inculcated on women for centuries that men have not only stronger passions than they but of a sort that it would be shameful for them to share or even understand; that therefore they must confide in their husbands that is submit implicitly to their will; that the least appearance of coldness or withdrawal from whatever cause in the wife is wicked because liable to turn her husband's thoughts to illicit indulgence; for a man is so constituted that he must indulge his passions or dieYe cannot believe it men; but the only reason why women ever assume what is appropriate to you is because you prevent them from finding out what is fit for themselves What Fuller does at least in parts at the beginning that makes her stand out from the rightfully castigated crowd of racists classists and other flavors of bigots that made up the early US women's social justice movement is her acknowledgement of the variety of experiences women of differing races and social statuses were exposed to then much as they are now This stance immeasurably strengthens her argument or at least it would have had she stood by it till the very end As it stands she has some brilliant things to say about women's legal rights while married women's education and women's ultimate worth and justification of said worth in the eyes of humanity but much of it is nearly drowned in a nauseating Christocentric mess that only worsens as the text progresses Her insertion of Ancient Greek texts is interesting but this ultimately draws attention to the referred texts themselves than to her argument especially when she practically states that human sacrifice was at any point an admirable feminine pursuit Useful in moderation then but still worthy of fame than she is given as I am having a hard time remembering how I even came across this title and was inspired and lucky enough to add it and acuire a physical copy within a few short months of the adding True this is not a favorite but there are a substantial number of kernels that I may build upon and judging by Fuller's own introductory welcome she would have agreed with my undertaking if not so much with all that I had to say Her mother did so before her is no longer a sufficient excuse Indeed it was never received as an excuse to mitigate the severity of censure but was adduced as a reason rather why there should be no effort made for reformationBut a being of infinite scope must not be treated with an exclusive view to any one relation Give the soul free course let the organization both of body and mind be freely developed and the being will be fit for any and every relation to which it may be called The intellect no than the sense of hearing is to be cultivated merely that Woman may be a valuable companion to Man but because the Power who gave a power by its mere existence signifies that it must be brought out toward perfection I've been spending too much time outside my own century judging by how sick I've grown of dealing with endless convoluted syntaxes and bygone historical references Learn from history lest those in the future be forced to learn from you in ways most murderous and foul so it's worth to dive down every once in a while but I can't see myself reading any of Fuller's texts I have to wonder though what other feminists proto or otherwise lie off the beaten trail as well as what the likelihood is of their works crossing my path in a cheaply acuirable form Exciting really even if the results largely turn out to be a mix of gold and muck such as this one did Know thyself to know the future; know the past to save yourself some time Let us be wise and not impede the soul Let her work as she will Let us have one creative energy one incessant revelation Let it take what form it will and let us not bind it by the past to man or woman black or white


  6. says:

    Reading this takes effort but is worthwhile There are references to Latin and Greek classical works as well as writers of the time period that I have not read or read so long ago I didn't catch the allusion Spent a great deal of time flipping to footnotes Anyone interested in development of feminism should read this book If only to see how far things have come A good part of the book is spent justifying education for women not just higher education education period The writer points out how education will improve them as wives and mothers She also tries to point out that there are roles for women outside that of wife and mother


  7. says:

    I really wanted to read this because FEMINIST BIT OF ESSAY AND ALSO SHE KNEW THOREAU AND EMERSON AND THE ALCOTTS That last is mostly whyBut I didn't really get it I liked the last ten pages of this book; I dredged through the rest I was hoping for something thundering like A Room of One’s Own or A Vindication of the Rights of Woman While I get the sense that it was decidedly thundering I had a great deal of trouble making sense of what Fuller was talking about — for most of the book For the first ten pages my eyes blurred and at one point actually fell out No Not actually that last I couldn’t seem to make myself focus — my thoughts kept wandering I don’t think it’s the era in which this book was written I mean I’m reading Thoreau this week too a man of the same era And I can understand what in the world he’s talking about And Wollstonecraft? Some fifty years earlier She I understood Louisa May Alcott Yep Charlotte Bronte Emily Bronte Anne Bronte Charles Dickens Austen and she’s from thirty years prior She made some senseFuller uses insanely lofty language for pages and pages referencing example after example from history and literature prior to 1845 obviously without explaining what she’s talking about or how it connects to her point Most of the time I was left to guess what her point actually was She seems to be dancing around what she’s saying Rather than straightforwardly speaking her purpose she writes in a style that reminds me of a preacher pounding his fist and shouting a lot about hell and dropping names from the Bible that are supposed to sound scary without ever actually getting around to making a point I kept wondering why she didn’t just speak her demands plainlyWhat if I had an argument to speak and did it like this “I want to access the shweeees of excess spookety spookle the way the sporks of Yon did upon the corner clump I want to make cooky crumblies like Floppowip did on the field of Graegar This is what Leon the Snail would say in the same way the dog Parliplooee yodled on the hill of Hard Knocks in the Filangee region When Yoogigoogee Yoglewitz rationed the snipes Ye grave listeners I summon thee as Misernella Waddleflock summoned the Hungleebunglees This is the Waddlywaddle Wobbleton of the WitzyBitzy Wittle Wesson ghkj fkguhr;uisgh ifsygi uygsouyh iusrt viuyhouyh etc”I mean I can’t make sense of that And I even knew what Fuller would likely be arguing Then suddenly every ten or so pages she’d speak directly and I’d lean forward and say “Here we go Now she’s getting started” And then she would wander off again referencing Cyrus and Rhea and Minerva and Isis and Apuleius and Madame Dacier and Abradatus and Orpheus and blah blah pheus I tried to Google names so I could keep up but friends I was Googling almost EVERYTHING and that is no way to liveExample really Fuller this time “We sicken no less at the pomp than the strife of words We feel that never were lungs so puffed with the wind of declamation on moral and religious subjects as now We are tempted to implore these “word heroes” these word Catos word Christs to beware of cant above all things; to remember that hypocrisy is the most hopeless as well as the meanest of crimes and that those must surely be polluted by it who do not reserve a part of their morality and religion for private use Landor says that he cannot have a great deal of mind who cannot afford to let the larger part of it lie fallow; and what is true of genius is not less so of virtue The tongue is a valuable member but should appropriate but a small part of the vital juices that are needful all over the body We feel that the mind may”grow black and rancid in the smoke” even “of altars” We start up from the harangue to go into our closet and shut the door There inuires the spirit “Is this rhetoric the bloom of healthy blood or a false pigment artfully laid on?” And yet again we know where is so much smoke must be some fire; with so much talk about virtue and freedom must be mingled some desire for them; that it cannot be in vain that such have become the common topics of conversation among men rather than schemes for tyranny and plunder that the very newspapers see it best to proclaim themselves “Pilgrims” “Puritans” “Heralds of Holiness” The king that maintains so costly a retinue cannot be a mere boast or Carabbas fiction We have waited here Iong in the dust; we are tired and hungry; but the triumphal procession must appear at last”I did not find this book even slightly enjoyable to read As I’m typing this I am sporting a mighty headache caused FULLY by my attempt to read Fuller She makes some excellent points of course woman should be educated woman should be treated eually couples should marry for euality and companionship as opposed to marrying via contract because Daddy said so those commonly known as “old maids” in Fuller’s day have a better chance of transcending because they can focus on self etc But it could have been said in SO MANY LESS WORDS Or even better it could have benefited with a plethora of handy footnotes however Transcendentalists I’m learning didn’t fight the same battles and didn’t always agree but where they seemed to come together was in their united belief that all people deserve eualityFuller in this case was speaking for the women She asserts that women should be allowed to vote because though men claimed they’d represent the women in the ballot box and there was no need to fuss with a good system history had proven that the present system wasn’t living up to that promise She declares that women aren’t going to suddenly become “bad wives and mothers” by being given freedom – they aren’t suddenly going to vanish from home and hearth any than men vanished as they went about their daily business Indeed given freedom men would likely find women far easier to get along with because they wouldn’t be suffering oppression under the iron apron She also asserts and I respected this when I read it that she isn’t trying to suggest that women who like hearth and home should change; rather that they should have the freedom to choose what they’ll do with their lives Many women she concedes would stay within the perceived sphere by choice – and if they had a choice Fuller fully supported that Her dispute wasn’t with women choosing to be domestic; her beef was with the smothering suggestion that all women belong in their domestic bubble “sphere” and that women and children should do their duty by staying out of the man’s world and not asking too many horrifying uestions about eualityFuller challenges women to live a life free of vanity so that they don’t influence other American women by their behavior to continue the present course She cites a group of rich women she saw recently who were ogled by men and seemed to LIKE it And scolds those women for setting a precedent They could spend their time helping less fortunate women but instead parade their vanity inspiring other women who are less fortunate to steal dresses and put on airs just to live up to the example She challenges women to change — to be mothers to the women who never had mothers to lose their vanity and live for God not a tribunal of carnal men She also says that some men in her life I’m wondering if she refers to Emerson Hawthorne Thoreau and Alcott have assured her than it is not impossible for men to be celibate as some might claim; it is not the duty of women to satisfy their sexual urges These are not as difficult for men to control as some might have women believe She’s even forward thinking enough to suggest that women have passions eual to man — that this is not sin and that man has only told women it is sinful to be sexual and that men are naturally sexual while women are not to keep them in their place She insists that women must be permitted to follow their own course and look to God and virtue not shallowly because they have been told this is their “place” but with a fully aware heart that seeks virtue on its pedestal alone rather than on a pedestal of obedience to man In other words she should be separate from and eual to man and marry as a full woman who has already learned self reliance — not as a little girl exchanging reliance on father for reliance on husbandAmid all this gold Fuller fills pages and pages with literary and historical examples to support her points I was lost through pretty much all of that Except when she mentions ueen Elizabeth and ueen Victoria Them I knew But I think her point in all this was to broaden the view of American women from the 19th century into the world that had been lived thus far to see both how women had been abused and mal formed by history and society and how they had begun to come alive as sincere beings that did not match the idea of women that history had thus far espousedShe finishes the essay by challenging women to influence their men to end slavery“Tell them that the heart of women demands nobleness and honor in man and that if they have not purity have not mercy they are no longer fathers lovers husbands sons of yours”Fuller’s ultimate point in Woman in the Nineteenth Century seems to be that women have souls just like men and MUST be permitted to nurture those souls and listen for God rather than being thrust into a man’s idea of her sphere and told pretty much to shut up and keep house She concedes that men are chivalrous with women who keep “their place” but that any women who break free of the habit set before them by men following custom handed down to them by unchangeable society — are ostracized She notes that there’s no beautiful a sight than a father with his daughter’s hand clutched trustingly in his But that image is shattered as soon as he speaks his true purpose “Keep her in her sphere Education will ruin her”Fuller asserts that she is tired of hearing women spoken about on the same level as children – as in “women and children first” and “not in front of the women and children” She insists that women must have the opportunity to inherit education freedom respect etc – just like a man Because she has herself to work on in God’s world and is being barred right and left by the man made “sphere” of domestic pleasantness and complacency into which she has been propelledAll of which I respect


  8. says:

    In Woman in the Nineteenth Century Margaret Fuller expresses beliefs typical to the American Transcendentalist movement; however she expands those beliefs to apply specifically to women’s rights Fuller argues that women deserve a comprehensive education than is often available in her time period She holds that the environment in which a woman is raised contributes to her potential for intelligence as an adult Like Emerson and Thoreau Fuller uses nature imagery as a metaphor for human life however her use of this metaphor explicitly includes women Women she writes cannot possibly be eual to men until their education focuses not on cultivating marriageable ualities but intellectual ones Fuller continues her expansion of Emerson’s and Thoreau’s Transcendentalist beliefs to connect non conformism to women as well She asserts that women have an innate ability to sense that nature connects all living beings When this sense is channeled into individual genius women are likely to want to become nonconformists because they see the pervasive influence of conformity in society In Fuller’s view women have difficulty breaking free of the limitations Emerson and Thoreau see in society than men Women of her time Fuller writes are constrained by social expectations of decorum In Fuller’s view Nature is powerful than all human enterprise and as she declares on page 69 “provides exceptions to every rule” Nature does not establish gender roles these are human limitations and Fuller hopes that her society will one day be able to overcome them In Nature creativity is not inherent to one gender but is a force which can be attained by all human beings


  9. says:

    First written as an essay in 1843 it would be revised and published as a book two years later it would be easy to assume that little contained in its pages would have any relevance on the world in which we live today While I would love to confirm those assumptions sadly I cannot Despite all the ground gained for women's rights there is still much to be done and this book perfectly highlights that While the book contains predominately religious overtones that might put some people off such as the suggestion that single women should not be looked down upon because they have the opportunity to be closer to God than married people it is still a marvelous argument for the euality of men and women It reasons that the path to true enlightenment will only take place when both sexes enjoy all the same rights and privilegesWhile there are sure to be certain points that many readers will find distasteful in this modern age it is a worthwhile read for any feminist Exploring the ideas of our ancestors as they fought for euality is always an important reminder of how far we have come and how far we still need to go It also I think gives us a special appreciation for life during that time


  10. says:

    Man this was difficult to get to I am extremely familiar with Victorian literature and style yet I found this agonising to read Still I found it relevant even today and found myself nodding along to many passages