Margaret Fuller's Woman in the Nineteenth Century: Summary

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Margaret Fuller's The Great Lawsuit: Summary & Analysis

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:04 A Transcendental Feminist
  • 0:42 Margaret Fuller's Early Life
  • 1:23 Margaret Fuller's Work
  • 3:35 Margaret Fuller's Influence
  • 4:08 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Boyles

David has a Master's in English literature and is completing a Ph.D. He has taught college English for 6 years.

Margaret Fuller's 1845 book ''Woman in the Nineteenth Century'' was one of the most important feminist documents of the 19th century due to its call for equality in marriage and its radical claims about masculinity and femininity.

A Transcendental Feminist

Margaret Fuller was one of the most important female writers and thinkers of the 19th century. An important figure in the transcendentalist literary and philosophical movement that included Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, Fuller was also a pioneering feminist. Her 1845 book Woman in the Nineteenth Century was one of the most important feminist statements of the era.

Drawing on transcendentalist philosophy, Woman in the Nineteenth Century makes an argument for a marriage of equals as the most pure and spiritually fulfilling form of marriage. She makes the then-radical claim that men are not purely masculine, nor women purely feminine.

Margaret Fuller's Early Life

Margaret Fuller was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1810. The daughter of a well-to-do family, she was given a substantial private education by her father, Timothy. After completing her formal education in her teens, Fuller realized she was not like most other women of her time, as she desired a career over marriage.

Fuller began working as a teacher at Green Street School and private tutor, while also earning a living as a journalist, book reviewer, and translator. By the time she was 30, she had developed a reputation as the best-read person in New England, male or female. She made connections with heavyweights of the literary scene there, including Ralph Waldo Emerson and Frederic Henry Hedge.

Margaret Fuller's Work

Let's first look at her work as editor of The Dial. In 1839, Emerson asked Fuller to become the editor of his journal The Dial. The Dial was dedicated to transcendentalism, the philosophical and literary movement that Emerson and others had begun formulating in the 1820s and 1830s. Drawing on Eastern religious traditions, transcendentalism championed individualism over social conformity and encouraged self-reliance as a way to intellectual and spiritual fulfillment. Fuller published a series of essays titled ''The Great Lawsuit'' in The Dial, which were collected and published as Woman in the Nineteenth Century in 1845.

Now let's take a look at Women in the Nineteenth Century itself. Woman in the Nineteenth Century draws heavily on transcendentalism, as well as earlier feminist writers, such as Mary Wollstonecraft, to argue for women's equality to men. The basis of Fuller's argument is that mankind is being held back from spiritual enlightenment through its refusal to accept divine love. Divine love, in Fuller's formulation, depends on equality of the sexes. Only when women achieve fulfillment of their potential, Fuller argues, will mankind as a whole reach fulfillment.

Let's now finally take a look at thoughts on marriage. Fuller's book outlines four different types of marriage. The first is based purely on need and convenience, the second on mutual idolatry of the other. Next is intellectual companionship. Finally, there is the spiritual marriage, which encompasses the previous three and in which the man and woman are equal spiritual partners.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account