Unveiling the Margaret Fuller Marker:
MC Denise Doring VanBuren with former Mayor Clara Lou Gould and me unveiling the marker
It was an incredible day! Ted and I arrived early to get a sense of the space, parking at the City Hall where we met Elizabeth Evans, Assistant to the Mayor, and her friend, Bob, who set up the tables outside the Visitor’s Center with the homemade cookies and refreshments. Yes, Elizabeth, Diane Lapis, Kelly Ellenwood, and others made cookies to celebrate our event. This is the community care and spirit that prevail here in Beacon.
I donated ten copies of “Woman in the Nineteenth Century” for Carmen Johnson to sell for the Chamber of Commerce in the Visitor’s Center. Later Carmen told me that they all sold before the ceremony began. My friends and colleagues, Anne Rostosky and Brenda Conway, from Pennsylvania came up to attend the dedication. In their generosity, each bought a copy of Margaret’s book to donate to the Children’s Portable Free Library on-site in a box at Polhill Park and to the Howland Public Library.
Author Michael Cannell was sent by Andy Platt, President of the Point O’Woods Historical Society, Fire Island, to represent the Society at the Dedication. In 1850, Margaret drowned in a shipwreck during a hurricane off Fire Island. Lithgow Osborne, nephew of Megan Marshall, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Margaret Fuller: A New American Life,” was also sent by his aunt to be present on her behalf. Jenny Rankin, former minister of First Parish of Concord, Massachusetts, graciously put me in touch with Megan.
Denise Doring VanBuren, Mistress of Ceremonies, opened the dedication with its significance for women’s right and American history. She introduced the Fuller relatives present: Persis Caroline Fuller Alden, Margaret’s great-great-niece, and her daughter, Sue Alden Frelinghuysen. Persis’ cousin, Allegra Fuller Snyder, daughter of Buckminster Fuller, regrettably was not able to attend and sent her best wishes.
Mayor Randy Casale gave opening remarks, including honoring Clara Lou Gould, Mayor of Beacon from 1990 to 2007. Terri Pahucki, lay commissioned minister from Rock Tavern Unitarian Universalist Congregation in nearby Newburgh, gave a lovely account of Margaret’s association with Unitarianism and how she came to Fishkill Landing, which had a Unitarian church at that time.
I had the privilege of being the keynote speaker focusing on the importance of Margaret’s time at Fishkill Landing writing “Woman in the Nineteenth Century.” I felt that it was essential to share her words from her letters written from Fishkill Landing during the fall of 1844 and from her powerful, life-changing book. There were about 70 people present both sitting and standing.
After I spoke, composer Debra Kaye came forth to recite Margaret’s poem, “Freedom and Truth,” and introduced the performance of her original song’s World Premiere. The performance of soprano Kelly Ellenwood with violinist Kathleen Bosman was superb. Debra added the percussion. We were all deeply moved.
For the unveiling of the Margaret Fuller Historical Marker, the community in unison counted down from ten as former Mayor Gould and I removed the cloth. It was a wonderful ceremony! Many photographs were taken afterwards. Bell Gale Chevigny, author of “The Woman and the Myth: Margaret Fuller’s Life and Writings,” came forward to donate a copy of the 40th anniversary edition of her classic book to the Beacon Historical Society. She and her husband came in from Manhattan to attend. What a joy to meet her! She was a pioneer in bringing Margaret Fuller’s significance back into public awareness in 1976 after nearly being forgotten for too long.