America’s First True Feminist
Author, editor, and journalist, Margaret Fuller (1810–1850) holds a distinctive place in the cultural life of the American Renaissance. Literary critic, editor, author, political activist and women’s rights advocate – she was also the first full-time American female book reviewer in journalism. Her book Woman in the Nineteenth Century is considered the first major feminist work in the United States. Her death at sea was a tragedy for her family and colleagues, and the loss of her many talents to womankind, then and now, is immeasurable.
Childhood and Early Years
On May 23, 1810, Sarah Margaret Fuller was the first-born child of Margarett Crane and Timothy Fuller, Jr. of Cambridgeport, Massachusetts. A lawyer and a Republican in Federalist New England, Timothy Fuller was elected to the Massachusetts Senate in 1813 and in 1818 began the first of four terms in the United States Congress, finally retiring to write. Eight daughters and sons were born to the couple, and six grew to adulthood.
One of America’s Earliest Female Publishers
In 1777 a fledgling nation of United States was emerging, and its patriots looked to their newspapers to keep them informed about the Revolutionary War. Boston papers had been shut down by the British, and in New York only Tory papers were being published. After her husband’s death Hannah Watson (1749-1807) assumed responsibility for publishing the Connecticut Courant, the oldest and largest newspaper in the colonies, becoming one of the first female publishers in Ameica.
Women on the Mayflower
Image: The Ship Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor
By William Halsall
The passengers on the ship Mayflower were the earliest permanent European settlers in New England. They were referred to as the “First Comers” and they lived in perilous times. With their religion oppressed by the British government and the Church of England, the small party of Separatists who comprised almost half of the passengers on the ship sought a life where they could practice their religion freely.
Freedom We Seek
On September 6, 1620, the ship Mayflower set off from Plymouth, England on its journey to the New World. There were 102 passengers, which included 41 English Separatists (who would become known as the Pilgrims), who were seeking a new life of religious freedom in America. The Separatists had obtained a Patent from the London Company, which indentured them into service for the Company for seven years after they arrived.
Pilgrim Women at Plymouth Colony
The Pilgrim Maiden Statue
Sculpted by Henry Hudson Kitson
Brewster Gardens, Plymouth, Massachusetts
Dedicated in 1924 to “those intrepid English women whose courage, fortitude and devotion brought a new nation into being.”
In the first years of the 17th century, small numbers of English Puritans broke away from the Church of England and committed themselves to a life based on the Bible. Most of these Separatists were farmers, poorly educated and without social or political standing. The Separatists were persecuted in England, and many fled to Holland where their religious views were tolerated. They remained there for almost 12 years.
Feminist, Suffragist, Newspaper Publisher and Social Reformer
Amelia Bloomer (1818–1894) was a feminist, social reformer and women’s rights activist. Amelia Bloomer owned, edited and published the first newspaper for women, The Lily, in which she promoted abolition, temperance, women’s suffrage, higher education for women and marriage law reform. Although she did not create the women’s clothing style known as Bloomers, her name became associated with it because of her early and strong advocacy.
Amelia Jenks was born May 27, 1818 into a family of modest means in Homer, New York. Although she received only a few years of formal schooling, Amelia was thought to be remarkably intelligent by her peers. She became a teacher, at first in the public schools and afterward as a private tutor.
Women in Art: Early 19th Century Portrait Artist
Image: Anna Claypoole Peale, 1812
Painted by her father James Peale
Anna Claypoole Peale (1791–1878) was an American painter, specializing in portrait miniatures and still lifes. She was most famous for her strong characterizations of famous men. Peale was among the country’s first professional women artists, and pursued a career that propelled her into the public realm and beyond the typical domestic confines of women’s lives in the 19th century.
Anna Claypoole Peale was born March 6, 1791 into an artistic family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was one of six children (all but one of them girls) of Mary Chambers Claypoole and painter James Peale, and the niece of Charles Willson Peale, a well-known portrait painter.
Oneida Woman Who Saved Washington’s Army
Polly Cooper was an Oneida woman who took part in an expedition to aid the Continental Army during the American Revolution at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania during the bitterly cold winter of 1777-78. Cooper has long been held up as an example of the courage, generosity and indomitable spirit of the Oneida people.
Image: George Washington, Polly Cooper and Chief Skenandoah at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC
When the Revolution began, the Oneidas decided to fight side by side with the Americans, thus becoming the young country’s first ally. In the summer of 1777, a pary of Oneidas fought at the Battle of Oriskany, a significant engagement in the Saratoga campaign. The Oneidas help General Nicholas Herkimer and his 800 Tryon County militiamen stop the British forces, preventing them from entering the Mohawk Valley and marching east along the valley to Albany.
Early American Educator, Novelist and Actress
Susanna Rowson’s novel Charlotte Temple became the first bestseller in America when it was published in 1794 by Matthew Carey of Philadelphia. Rowson (1762–1824) was a British-American novelist, poet, textbook author, playwright and actress. She was also a pioneer in female education, opening the Academy for Young Ladies in Boston in 1797, offering an advanced curriculum to young ladies, and operating the school until her retirement in 1822.
Childhood and Early Years
Susanna Haswell was born in 1762 in Portsmouth, England to Royal Navy Lieutenant William Haswell and Susanna Musgrave Haswell, who soon died from complications of childbirth, an event that surely influenced Rowson’s fiction. Her father left Susanna in England in the care of relatives and went to Massachusetts, where he was stationed in Boston as a customs officer for the British Royal Navy.
Author, Editor and Champion of Women’s Education
Sarah Josepha Hale (1788-1879) was America’s first woman editor and the author of many novels and poems, publishing nearly fifty volumes of work in her lifetime. President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1864 after Hale had spent 40 years campaigning for a national day of thanks. An early activist for women’s education and property rights and editor of the 19th century’s most successful woman’s magazine (Godey’s) – these are only a few of the many accomplishments of the extraordinary woman who is now unknown to most Americans.
Childhood and Early Years
Sarah Josepha Buell was born October 24, 1788 in Newport, New Hampshire to Gordon and Martha Whittlesay Buell. A voracious reader of whatever books were available, Sarah noticed that “of all the books I saw, few were written by Americans, and none by women,” and she was inspired at an early age, to “promote the reputation of my own sex, and do something for my own country.”
Writer and Educator of Young Women
Emma Hart Willard (1787-1870) was an educator and writer who dedicated her life to women’s education. She worked in several schools and founded the first school for women’s higher education, the Troy Female Seminary in Troy, New York. With the success of her school, she was able to travel across the country and abroad, to promote education for women. Willard pioneered the teaching of science, mathematics and social studies to young women.
Childhood and Early Years
Emma Hart was born on February 23, 1787 in rural Berlin, Connecticut. She was the sixteenth of seventeen children from her father, Samuel Hart, and his second wife Lydia Hinsdale Hart. Her father was a farmer who encouraged his children to read and think for themselves. At a young age, Willard’s father recognized her passion for learning.