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Sarah Margaret Fuller, Marchessa Ossoli

SARAH MARGARET FULLER, MARCHESA OSSOLI, Author, conversationalist, feminist, and Transcendentalist, Ma rgaret Fuller (1810-1850) was America's first woman correspondent and reported to Americans on the Italian revolution of 1848-49. Her sympathies lay with the republicans, and she used her writing to enlist the sympathy and aid of Americans in the cause of Italian independence and unification.

Sarah Margaret Fuller was born in Cambridgeport, Massachusetts on May 1810, the oldest of eight children born to Timothy and Margaret Crane Fuller. Her father, a Harvard-educated lawyer and stern New  England Puritan, believed women were the intellectual equals of men and educated his first-born accordingly. Supervised by her father--even when he was serving in congress-- Margaret Fuller followed a rigorous regimen of classical studies, learning Latin (in which she was fluent by age six) and Greek as well as German, French, and Italian.

As an adult, Margaret Fuller gravitated to the northeastern intellectual establishment dominated by such men as Emerson, Channing, Thoreau, Holmes, Hawthorne, Alcott, and Longfellow. With her brothers educated and her sisters married by 1840, Margaret, who had supported her family by teaching following her father's death in 1835, accepted the editorship of The Dial, the journal of the Transcendentalists. In 1844, Horace Greeley invited Margaret Fuller to write for the Herald Tribune as the first female reporter in America. A year later, Greeley published Fuller's Woman in the Nineteenth Century, the first women's liberation book in the United States and her best-known work. Commissioned by Greeley to write articles on the political scene in Europe, Fuller set out for the continent in 1846. During visits to London and Paris, she met Thomas and Jane Carlyle, who introduced her to the Italian exile Giuseppe Mazzini; the Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz; and George Sand. It was in Italy, however, that Margaret found her European home. She arrived in time to witness the 1848-49 upheaval in Italian politics, on which she reported extensively for the Tribune. As a friend and follower of Mazzini, who devoted his life to the ideal of the unification of Italy as a republic, Margaret Fuller ardently supported the republicans and their short-lived Roman Republic in the Papal States. However, the republican experiment in Rome ended in July 1849 when French forces restored the Pope to power. During the struggle for Rome, Fuller was put in charge of the hospital of the Fate Bene Fra telli by Princess Belgiojoso, director of all the hospitals in Rome. During this time, Garibaldi's heroic efforts on behalf of the republic won the admiration of Fuller, who had earlier shared the popularly held opinion that he was little more than a brigand.

Meanwhile, Margaret Fuller had met the Italian nobleman, the Marchese Giovanni Angelo Ossoli, whom she later married. Unlike his family, who were high ranking functionaries in the Papal government, Angelo Ossoli supported a re publican Italy and, as a member of the Guardia Nazionale, served under Garibaldi during the siege of Rome (1849). On September 5, 1848, Fuller gave birth to Ossoli's son, but she and Ossoli kept the child's birth a secret until their marriage in late 1849-early 1850.

Following the fall of the Roman Republic, Fuller and Ossoli retreated to Florence, but persistent political pressures and poverty constrained Fuller to return to the United States with her new family in 1850 to s eek a publisher for her history of the Italian revolution of 1848-49 which she had written following the fall of Rome. On July 19, within sight of the New Jersey shore, her ship struck ground on Fire Island and broke apart. The Ossoli family perished in the disaster.

No collected works of Margaret Fuller have been published and, since the majority of her literary efforts appeared in the journals for which she wrote, her major works are not easily accessible even though recent renewed interest in her had resulted in publication of some of her writings. Her published works, besides Woman, include Conversations with Goethe (1839), Gunderode (1842), Summer on the Lakes (1843), and Papers on Literature and Art (1846). Fuller's history of the Italian revolution was lost with her at sea.
Joan B. Huffman


Since the Memoirs of Margaret Fuller Ossoli (2 vol, 1852), edited by Ralph Waldo Emerson, William H. Channing, and James Freeman Clarke were extensively edited so as not to offend, it is necessary to consult additional sources to obtain a more comprehensive understanding of this "liberated" woman and her work. These include the Fuller Papers in the Boston Public Library and the Houghton Library at Harvard University; the writings of Margaret Fuller, At Home and Abroad (1856) and Life Within and Without (1859), also highly selective, which were edited by her brother, Arthur B. Fuller; and the numerous biographies of Margaret Fuller. The standard biography is Mason Wade's Margaret Fuller: Whetstone of Genius (1940). More recent studies include Paula Blanchard's Margaret Fuller: from Transcendentalism to Revolution, (1978 and 1987); Madeleine B. Stern's The Life of Margaret Fuller (1942 and 1991); Perry Miller's Margaret Fuller: American Romantic (1963 and 1970); and Joseph Jay Deiss' The Roman Years of Margaret Fuller (1969). See also the biographical sketches of Fuller in The Macmillan Dictionary of Women's Biography (1982 and 1984); Notable American Women, 1706-1950, I, 678-682; Biographical Dictionary of American Journalism (1989); and The Dictionary of American Biography, IV, 63-66.

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