Transcendentalism was an American spiritual and philosophical movement that arose in the 1820s and 1830s, as the United States was undergoing the Market Revolution. The transcendentalists believed in the individual and were suspicious of the teachings of organized religion and other orthodox beliefs. The most famous transcendentalists are people like Henry David Thoreau, who rejected what he saw as unjust laws and believed in civil disobedience and Ralph Waldo Emerson, who wrote an essay called “Self-Reliance” in which he included the sentence “Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist.”
I would say that Thoreau and Emerson are the two most famous transcendentalists. Some less-famous people from this movement would include:
- Margaret Fuller, who edited Emerson’s transcendentalist journal The Dial. She was also a feminist and an intellectual.
- Frederic Henry Hedges. He was a Unitarian minister who helped found the Transcendental Club in Cambridge, MA.
- William Henry Channing. He, too, was a Unitarian minister (Unitarianism and transcendentalism were closely connected). He was also very interested in socialism as well as women’s rights.