At one point in “The Great Lawsuit,” Margaret Fuller writes prophetically, “And will not she soon appear? The woman who shall vindicate their birthright for all women; who shall teach them...

At one point in “The Great Lawsuit,” Margaret Fuller writes prophetically, “And will not she soon appear? The woman who shall vindicate their birthright for all women; who shall teach them what to claim, and how to use what they obtain?” Why was the time right for Fuller to expect an appearance “soon” of this new empowered woman? Had literary culture in some ways prepared the way?

Asked on by chhbmints

1 Answer | Add Yours

akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

In many respects, the literary tradition of which Fuller had been a part actively believed that there could be a transformational element within society.  Being a Transcendentalist and heavily influenced by Emerson, Fuller had little reason to doubt the appearance of a transformational notion of gender relations.  Transcendentalism had called for a radical reconfiguration of what was in the name of what can be.  Through her writings, Fuller represented this.  For example, Fuller writes that transformation within gender relations could be envisioned and seen over time:  "All men are privately influenced by women; each has his wife, sister, or female friends, and is too much biased by these relations to fail of representing their interests."  The literary culture of Transcendentalism emphasized that social change can be brought about by internal reflection and thought.  Fuller and other Transcendentalists suggested that when people's thought processes are changed, social evolution becomes the logical result.  Fuller reflects this in regards to gender relations in society, clearly reconfiguring what a women "can and ought to do":  

We would have every arbitrary barrier thrown down. We would have every path laid open to woman as freely as to man. Were this done, and a slight temporary fermentation allowed to subside, we believe that the Divine would ascend into nature to a height unknown in the history of past ages, and nature, thus instructed, would regulate the spheres not only so as to avoid collision, but to bring forth ravishing harmony. Yet then, and only then, will human beings be ripe for this, when inward and outward freedom for woman, as much as for man, shall be acknowledged as a right, not yielded as a concession.

The emphasis on "inward and outward" freedom for both men and women is a reflection of the Transcendentalist culture Fuller actively embraces.  It could be argued Transcendentalism was the most fertile ground where social activism could present itself. The overall reconfiguration of individuals and their place in the world is the essence of Transcendentalism.  Such a change in thought process results in the empowerment of women and those voices who were previously silenced.  The emphasis on changing individual action through reflection about habits, manners of speech, and recalibrating thought towards a larger end are areas where this literary culture helped to enhance Fuller's cause.  

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,926 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question