Let every woman, who has once begun to think, examine herself.
--Margaret Fuller, Woman in the Nineteenth Century, 1845
On this day in Cambridgeport, Massachusetts, the singular genius and most prolific writer among the Transcendentalists was born. The first child of Margarett Crane Fuller and her husband, the Massachusetts legislator Timothy, Margaret, as she chose to be known, was an autodidact--a child who learned Greek and Latin, who read Shakespeare while others her age were struggling with the alphabet, and who became the first woman in the US to file articles as a foreign correspondent was a nonpareil. Biographies of her abound, including the 2013 Pulitzer-Prize winner by Megan Marshall, Margaret Fuller: A New American Life.
I first became entranced with Margaret in the 1970s while researching women in the American Revolution for Addison-Wesley, whose best-selling American history textbook needed some updating. Joan Labby, who was editing that book, asked me and a few others to write features for the book and one of us, either she or I, came up with the idea of bringing some feminist history into greater relief.
I did, penning a straightforward account of such women as Deborah Sampson, who donned men's clothing, picked up arms, and fought in the American Revolution, serving 17 months as "Robert Shurtliffe." But before I could learn all there was to know about Deborah, I was stopped in the Encyclopedia of American Woman by another even more fascinating entry, the brief biography of Margaret Fuller.
And thus began my lifelong obsession with Fuller.
For many years on this day, I've visited her monument in Cambridge's Mount Auburn Cemetery, usually inviting others to go with me, sometimes going alone, and one year making a film with Cambridge filmmaker Ron Mortara (2008). Here are links to those visits. Today I'm traveling to my partner's parents' graves and there I will read a few words of Margaret's. Spirit knows no geography.
And, for the record, Margaret is also a central character in my novel-trilogy-in-process, Woman in the 21st Century, of which the first volume, The Quintessence, is complete.