Woman in the Nineteenth Century
Digital History ID 3599
Margaret Fuller was part of the Transcendentalist circle. From 1840 to 1842 she edited the Transcendentalist literary quarterly, The Dial. In the July 1843 issue her article "The Great Lawsuit: Man Versus Men: Woman Versus Women" appeared. She extended this article into Woman in the Nineteenth Century, which is considered a classic among feminist literature. It discusses controversial topics such as prostitution and slavery, marriage, employment, and reform.
Much has been written about woman's keeping within her sphere, which is defined as the domestic sphere. As a little girl she is to learn the lighter family duties, while she acquires that limited acquaintance with the realm of literature and science that will enable her to superintend the instruction of children in their earliest years. It is not generally proposed that she should be sufficiently instructed and developed to understand the pursuits or aims of her future husband; she is not to be a help-meet to him in the way of companionship and counsel, except in the care of his house and children. Her youth is to be passed partly in learning to keep house and the use of the needle, partly in the social circle, where her manners may be formed, ornamental accomplishments perfected and displayed, and the husband found who shall give her the domestic sphere for which she is exclusively to be prepared.
Were the destiny of Woman thus exactly marked out; did she invariably retain the shelter of a parent's or guardian's roof till she married; did marriage give her a sure home and protector; were she never liable to remain a widow, or, if so, sure of finding immediate protection of a brother or new husband, so that she might never be forced to stand alone one moment; and were her mind given for this world only, with no faculties capable of eternal growth and infinite improvement; we would still demand for her a far wider and more generous culture, than is proposed by those who so anxiously define her sphere.
Source: Margaret Fuller, Woman in the Nineteenth Century. New York: Greeley & McElrath, 160 Nassau Street, 1845.
Copyright 2021 Digital History