Margaret Fuller

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How did Margaret Fuller compare ending slavery and women's equality?

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Margaret Fuller viewed the similarities between the institution of slavery and the social oppression of women as violations of moral law. She also felt that the American ideal that "all men are born free and equal" was not being applied to slaves or women in nineteenth century America because of man's hypocrisy.

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In her 1843 extended essay Woman in the Nineteenth Century, Margaret Fuller, a feminist and abolitionist, makes her argument that men who infringe upon the rights of slaves, Native Americans and women violate moral law and profane "the name of The Prince of Peace." She draws no distinctions between oppressions of others, whether they are based on feelings of racial or gender superiority.

Fuller asserts that it is the destiny of the United States "to elucidate a great moral law, as Europe was to promote the mental culture of Man." She makes the argument that

"though the national independence be blurred by the servility of individuals; though freedom and equality have been proclaimed only to leave room for a monstrous display of slave-dealing and slave-keeping; though the free American so often feels himself free, like the Roman, only to pamper his appetites and his indolence through the misery of his fellow-beings; still it is not in vain that the verbal statement has been made, "All men are born free and equal."

She goes on to make clear that women, too, are born with natural rights. It is her belief that it is the moral imperative of men to not only feel God's love, but to demonstrate it toward others by freeing the slaves of their literal bondage and women of their social bondage. She rejected the counterargument that men were the heads of their households and women were the hearts because, as she pointed out, women are also born with minds.

Fuller makes explicit her feelings about the way men think of women when she announces "there exists in the minds of men a tone of feeling toward women as toward slaves." Because she was a Northerner and her writings were widely read by other Northerners, Fuller wisely asked for the same empathy that abolitionists felt for slaves to be extended to the plight of America's women.

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