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Margaret Fuller was a pioneering American feminist, who was closely associated with the Transcendentalist movement, and acquainted with such luminaries as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Horace Greeley, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Her main analysis of the respective roles of men and women is found in her book Woman in the Nineteenth Century (1855). She argues that men have kept women subordinated, and that this harms both the material and spiritual nature of society. She sees the traditional marriage, one in which women are kept dependent and unequal and treated like children, as stunting the development of society.
Fuller discusses four different types of marriage. She considers the worst type of marriage to be a "household partnership," a purely economic arrangement in which the man earns money and the woman takes care of the domestic economy (housecleaning, cooking, etc.), and the best a spiritual union. Unlike many other feminists, Fuller's vision of gender roles has a strong spiritual component:
Male and female represent the two sides of the great radical dualism. But, in fact, they are perpetually passing into one another. Fluid hardens to solid, solid rushes to fluid. There is no wholly masculine man, no purely feminine woman.
She thinks this balance can only be obtained when women become independent and full partners in relationships.
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