Fuller as a Conversationalist, Feminist, Journalist, Social & Literary Critic

Before Margaret began her job as editor of The Dial, she started hosting a series of Conversations for adult women. Fuller’s intention was not to teach anything specific to her female audience, but to promote original thought through discussing the classical myths that had inspired her audacious behavior since childhood. Before starting her Conversations, Margaret wrote a letter to Sophia Ripley explaining her intentions for the women-based classes:

Thus to pass in review the departments of our thought and knowledge and endeavor to place them in due relation to one another in our minds To systematize thought and give precision in which our sex are so deficient, chiefly, I think because they have so few inducements to test and classify what they receive. To ascertain what pursuits are best suited to us in our time and state society, and how we may make best use of our means for building up the life of thought upon the life of action. (Margaret Fuller to Sophia Ripley, 27 August, 1839)

In the summer of 1843, Margaret traveled west with her close friend James Freeman Clarke and his sister Sarah Freeman Clarke. Their journey included spending time on the Great Lakes as well as seeing the prairies of Michigan and northern Illinois. Fuller’s journey into the underdeveloped west gave her a new perspective on the future of America being created by settlers. Part of this perspective meant acknowledging the sad and sobering fact that there was a history of peoples’ being erased in the process. Summer on the Lakes in 1843 (1844) had an extremely successful reception among the literary community and general public alike.

After reading Summer on the Lakes, in 1843, founder of the New-York Tribune, Horace Greeley (1811-1872), was so impressed by Fuller’s work that he offered her a position as a journalist and literary critic. Fuller accepted the position and moved to New York but did not actively begin working for the Tribune until she finished expanding her essay “The Great Lawsuit. Man versus Men, Woman versus Women” which was published in 1843 by The Dial. Fuller’s expansion, titled Women in the Nineteenth Century, was published in February, 1845 and became known as the first landmark in American Feminist literature.

While Fuller worked for the Tribune, she wrote various essays and articles that ranged all the way from literary criticism to translations of foreign press. Of her published pieces in the Tribune, Fuller wrote numerous essays addressing what she considered to be significant issues of the nineteenth century. Among these issues was the growing disparity between upper and lower classes in the wake of the industrial revolution, the social and economic iniquity faced by women and African Americans, and the desperate need to reform institutions such as prisons and asylums. For a selected bibliography of Fuller’s Tribune journalism, see Fuller’s Journalism for the New-York Daily Tribune.