By Steve Hough
My enjoyment of “Margaret Fuller: A New American Life” exceeded my expectations.
Upon being invited to read the book, I was intrigued by the fact that I had never heard of her. I was somewhat familiar with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, having remembered them from a high school history class. Who was this Margaret Fuller, and why had she been overlooked?
The person who telephoned me with an invitation mentioned her association with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. I told the caller I had participated in one conference call previously, but had not yet read a book club selection. I told him that I do read a good bit, but have irons in many fires. I did not check the timeline for Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, at the time, nor google Margaret Fuller for background information. The question remained in the back of my mind.
After reading another book first, I took the plunge. I read the selection on a Kindle reader app and, although realizing early on the bibliography would be extensive, I feared I would not finish in time for the conference call. As it turned out, I finished the book with twenty-four hours to spare.
I enjoyed the conference call; especially having the author participate.
Margaret and her associates were persons of letters and, as I read, I was in awe of the number having been preserved. Not so much the letters of the more famous personalities, but those of her friends of lesser note, both male and female. The amount of time researching the book must have been staggering. Even though Ms. Marshall acknowledged the scholarship of others which preceded her research, I am still struck by depth of thought expressed in the letters of that era and appreciative of Ms. Marshall’s dedication to her task.
I identified early on with Margaret’s fear that she might “die and leave no trace”. In a time when the telephone has replaced letter writing and everyone and their dog (or cat) has a personal website, a blog or Facebook page; a time when a popular mode of personal communication is restricted to one hundred forty characters or less, a digital trace is easily achieved. However, anyone of Margaret’s mindset must still do more in order to leave “an indelible mark of distinction”.
Having come of age in an era when Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem were standard bearers of the “women’s movement”, it is no stretch of the imagination to recognize that the goal of gender equality has yet to be achieved. “You’ve come a long way baby” may have been a nifty slogan for marketing a cigarette brand to women, in its time, and women may have come a long way since, but there is still a way to go.
While who might leave the next indelible mark of distinction is speculative and open to argument, I believe Margaret Fuller deserves a more prominent place in the history of expanding women’s rights. Had she not been a trailblazer, history very likely would have unfolded differently.
Steve Hough is a retired accountant and a lifelong independent. Steve has recently become active with IndependentVoting.org, organizing fellow independents in Panama City, FL in support of Top Two Open Primaries.