Margaret Fuller Society President, Phyllis Blum Cole, speaking to us as we celebrate the Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House on Saturday, May 27, 2017
The second and final morning of our Margaret Fuller Society conference focused on three wonderful presentations. Yoshiko Ito, who translated “Woman in the Nineteenth Century” into Japanese, presented Fuller’s work with Japan’s women’s rights activist, Hiratsuka Raicho. Katie Kornacki delivered a powerful paper detailing the controversy surrounding anti-capital punishment reform while Fuller wrote as first woman reporter for the New York Tribune. Christina Katopodis considered Margaret’s role in early feminist pragmatism. There was much food for thought for us!
In the afternoon, we gathered at the Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House on Cherry Street in Cambridge where Fuller lived the first sixteen years of her life as expressed by Phyllis Blum Cole, President of the MF Society. We were greeted warmly by Reverend Dr. Dorothy Emerson, Coordinator of the Margaret Fuller Bicentennial Celebration in 2010, and her partner, Donna. It was lovely to see them again seven years later. They brought the scrumptious foods, drinks, and birthday cake to celebrate the 207th birthday of Margaret Fuller, the 25th Anniversary of the Society, and the 115th year of the House as a local community settlement house serving children and adults in the community.
I was especially delighted to be with Joan Von Mehren, author of “Minerva and the Muse: A Life of Margaret Fuller,” with whom I had been on the panel at First Parish of Concord in 2010 for Fuller’s Bicentennial. She still has such a vibrant, positive energy about her. I also met Christina Alexis, Executive Director of the MF Neighborhood House, who welcomed us and took us on a tour of the house serving the local community. She, too, has such a beautiful energy and devotion to her work at hand.
I have found the Society members and participants and the MF Neighborhood House supporters very heartfelt and heart-based, which Margaret would wholly embrace. Fuller extended her heart and care to all those who were being discriminated against in American and European society at the time. She became increasingly devoted to social, economic, and political justice. Fuller expressed inclusiveness and equality in her writings.
The site of Elizabeth Peabody’s bookshop where Margaret Fuller held her “Conversations” for Women in Boston near the Common.
It was wonderful to meet with the Margaret Fuller Society this morning for our first session together at the American Literature Association annual conference in Boston. Our first presenter, Rev. Jenny Rankin, shared her personal journey with the Transcendentalists which led to her leading tours to Europe where they visited on their Grand Tours. She specifically talked about her Margaret Fuller tour through Italy. Jenny asked me to read Margaret’s words about her time in London and Paris. I had the privilege of working with Jenny as part of the panel at First Parish of Concord for Margaret’s 200th Anniversary Celebration in 2010.
It was exciting to learn that Sonia Di Loreto from the University of Torino, Italy, with William Bond and Sarah Payne from Northeastern University are working on Margaret Fuller’s Transnational Archive to help scholars readily access primary source materials from various archives online with great interaction and ease. I am particularly eager to see Margaret’s New York Tribune articles available in an easy-to-access-and-read form. Her work as first woman reporter for the New York Tribune is my specialty.
Project Director Jonathan Schwartz shared a short 13-minute film toward a full-length documentary on Margaret Fuller, which looks very promising. He and his partners in production have worked in the past with PBS. All these presentations give us hope for more public recognition for Margaret Fuller’s gifts to us.
Phyllis Cole, President of the MF Society, graciously asked me to share about my work helping the City of Beacon apply for and receive the Pomeroy Foundation historic marker grant for Margaret Fuller at Fishkill Landing, NY. There in fall 1844, Margaret wrote “Woman in the Nineteenth Century,” which was influential in bringing about the first Women’s Rights Convention at Seneca Falls in 1848. It is now one year that the MF Historical Marker has been placed on the Women’s History Trail in New York State at Beacon, NY to support the 100th Anniversary of Women’s Right to Vote in NYS this year.
This afternoon, Ted and I stopped on West Street near the Boston Common to revisit the bookstore owned by Transcendentalist Elizabeth Peabody where Margaret held her “Conversations” for Women. Peabody was A. Bronson Alcott’s teaching assistant at his Temple School in Boston before Margaret then became his assistant.
To celebrate Margaret’s birthday, Ted and I drove from Boston to Concord where the ebbing marshland along the road and beautiful, lush green landscape welcomed us to town. It was wonderful to be back after seven years ago participating in the 200th Anniversary Birthday Celebration at First Parish of Concord on a panel.
To Ted’s delight, we drove through town right to Old North Bridge where the shot heard ’round the world began the Revolutionary War. Next door is Ralph Waldo Emerson’s grandparents’ house, the Old Manse, where Margaret enjoyed meeting with Emerson to discuss important Transcendentalist things. One can just feel the peace and beauty present here where Emerson wrote his essay, “Nature,” as father of Transcendentalism.
In Concord Public Library, we viewed the current exhibition showing different photographic portraits of Emerson. He just loved the new photography! We ate homemade squash, corn, and red rice soup with a delicious feta cheese and hummus pita on the welcoming bench outside the bakery on Main Street where we bought the lunch. The cloudy sky had given way to blue skies and sunshine with great warmth.
We visited First Parish of Concord again, then drove down to Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House where the lovely Lis Adams, education director, met us for a quick tour of the House and her new office digs next door up the hill through a gorgeous woods path. It was great to be back in Orchard House. It felt very uplifting and light in energy. May’s room was particularly delightful in feeling with all her art and drawings present.
I had spoken on Margaret emphasizing her deep friendship with A. Bronson Alcott, Louisa’s father, at the Summer Conversational Series of the Concord School of Philosophy at Orchard House in 2010. It was wonderful to be with Lis again as she offers such beautiful hospitality. Lis grew up near us in Boyertown, Berks County, PA. She has an endearing and caring quality of relationship, which she brings to her teaching and educational programming.
Lis helped us get directions to Mount Auburn Cemetery where we discovered the fresh birthday red rose placed on Margaret’s memorial erected by her grieving family over her drowning with her husband and baby son in a shipwreck off on Fire Island, NY on July 19, 1850. Ted and I took photographs and honored her great work and inspiration for us all in living the sacred marriage within. Happy Birthday, Beloved Margaret Fuller Ossoli!