Margaret Fuller grew up in a Unitarian family in Cambridge and her brother, Arthur, became a Unitarian minister. America’s first female correspondent and first book review editor was taught to read at the age of three by her father, Timothy Fuller, a lawyer and U.S. congressman. Although no women were then admitted to Harvard College, Margaret studied with student friends who viewed her as a peer. She was present at the Unitarian Church in Harvard Square when Emerson delivered his famous address on “The American Scholar.” Later he and his wife invited her to live in their Concord home. Fuller and Emerson jointly founded a Transcendentalist journal, The Dial, first edited by her and then by him.
Her educational “Conversations” for prominent Boston women concerning issues central in their lives was followed by her becoming the editor of the New York Daily Tribune and the author of Women in the Nineteenth Century. As the Tribune’s foreign correspondent reporting on European cities, she met in Rome a son of Italian aristocrats, Angelo Ossoli, who was fighting with the exiled patriot, Mazzini. When Rome fell, she and Ossoli and their son chose to sail to America. Their ship sank in a storm just four hundred yards away from New York City. All three drowned.
A plaque at the Margaret Fuller Memorial in Cambridge honors her as “a teacher, writer, critic of literature and art, a companion and helper of many reformers in America and Europe.”