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Margaret Fuller, Transcendentalist: A Re-assessment Carolyn Hlus In my research I realized over and over again that women's achievements had been left out of history and the records of their lives had apparently disappeared. (Judy Chicago, The Dinner Party. asymbol of our heritage, 1979) [I]n the process of researching our book we realized that, like many other feminists, we were trying to recover not only a major (and neglected) female literature but a whole (neglected) female history. (Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic, 1979) During the current recovery of female artists and writers from between the lines of history textbooks, feminists should question as well the accuracy of what has been written about women. The achievements of American journalist and feminist Margaret Fuller (1810-50)have been estimated, but are these estimations correct? Critics consider in detail the events of Fuller's life: her friends in America, her occupations there, her trip to England, her romance with Count Ossoli-often worrying obsessively about the authenticity of his professed nobility or about the legality of their professed marriage- her role in the 1847Italian revolution, and her death in the shipwreck off Fire Island; but few consider her as a major figure 1 in the intellectual circle of which she was a part from 1836until 1844when she moved from Boston to New York. Margaret Fuller was a teacher, travel writer, poet, journalist, editor, foreign correspondent and radical reformer. There is evidence in her career and in her writings that she was an eminent Transcendentalist; her application of Transcendentalist principles to justify the natural rights of women is her unique contribution to the Transcendentalist movement. Fuller revealed her Transcendentalism in her occupations as teacher, parlor lecturer and editor. In these roles she promulgated the beliefs of the Transcendentalists with whom she first associated in the summer of 1836 when she spent three weeks at Emerson's Concord home. 2 While there, she met Bronson Alcott, then searching for someone to replace Elizabeth Peabody Canadian Review of American Studies, Volume 16, Number 1, Spring 1985, HJ 2 Caro~vnHlus who, after two years' employment at his Temple School, had resigned because of growing public apprehension about Alcott's educational methods. Fuller was impressed by Alcott's belief in the godliness of children and his approach which used free conversation from which no topic was banned. She accepted the position and, the following December, began her duties. Because Alcott encountered financial difficulties, he was forced to let Fuller go after only four months at his school. In his journal, however, he describes her teaching style: "If I might characterize her in a word I should say she was a diviner-one of the Sibylline souls who read instinctively the mysteries of life and thought, and translate these in shining symbols to those competent to apprehend them."3 Fuller's use of intuition and imagination in the classroom parallels the Transcendentalists' belief in ''the divinity of nature, the glory of human aspirations and freedom, the power of intuition as opposed to reason and the creative energy of the poetic imagination," 4 the qualities which became the movement's identifying earmarks. During this time, Fuller attended Emerson's lectures on "The Philosophy of History" and, one evening a week, translated German for Dr. Channing. Emerson, Theodore Parker, George Ripley, Bronson Alcott and others frequently interrupted these translation sessions. The ensuing conversations included topics "that would soon be associated with transcendentalism ... the nature of immortality and the personality of God; the new interest in astrology and the occult .... " Immediately after her dismissal from Alcott's Temple School, Fuller accepted a position at Greene Street School in Providence, a school newly opened by Hiram Fuller (no relation), a professed follower of Alcott. During the August break (1837), Fuller visited the Emersons, heard Emerson deliver his address on "The American Scholar" at Harvard, and was present the following day during the founding meeting of "Hedge's Club," the forerunner of the Transcendental Club. Emerson, Alcott, Hedge and Ripley formed the nucleus of the club; Fuller belonged ''by virtue of her rebellion against the past and her belief in the possibility of change...


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