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Events to mark Margaret Fuller’s bicentennial

Dozens of events scheduled nationwide to celebrate the legacy of noted feminist, journalist, and Transcendentalist.
By Kimberly French
3.15.10

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Margaret Fuller (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Sarah Margaret Fuller (1810-1850), critic, Transcendentalist, and reformer. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Fans of Margaret Fuller are anxious to make up for lost time, and they’re throwing quite a birthday bash in the coming months to celebrate her 200th birthday on May 23.

Fuller—a pioneering author, critic, teacher, journalist, foreign correspondent, advocate of women’s equality, and intellectual who was a Transcendentalist and a Unitarian—was largely overlooked by historians and her writings excluded from the literary canon for much of the twentieth century. But in recent years, her works and her dramatic life story have been enjoying a rediscovery, with several new biographies.

Margaret Fuller enthusiasts have seized on the bicentennial to get her story told and her works known in an enduring way.

“We know from the inside that Margaret Fuller has been marginalized,” says Rob Velella, a member of the Margaret Fuller Bicentennial Committee of Boston. “If we want people to recognize her, remember her, appreciate her work, we have to be a little aggressive about it and oversupport her. She can’t be a footnote to Emerson or Hawthorne or anyone else. She was so complicated and had such a fascinating story, how could you not be passionate about her?”

Three Unitarian Universalist committees have been planning a staggering number of bicentennial events—one for this year’s General Assembly, one based in Boston, and one in New York—in addition to a weekend of events planned by the Transcendentalism Council of the First Parish in Concord, Mass. The result is months of exhibits, plays, concerts, lectures, panel discussions, classes, worship services, walking tours, group tours to Fuller sites in Massachusetts and Italy, a children’s book, a new anthology, and hymn and sermon competitions.

The following events, centered around Women’s History month in March and Fuller’s birthday on May 23, are sponsored by Unitarian Universalist organizations or individuals. In addition, many historical and academic organizations will be throwing their own birthday celebrations, and many UU congregations will be observing Fuller’s bicentennial in their worship services on May 23. Check local listings.



View Margaret Fuller Bicentennial Events, 2010 in a larger map

March 17, 24, and 31, Warrington, Pa.: “Happy Birthday, Margaret Fuller! Transcendentalist, Critic, and Foreign Correspondent,” a three-part class by theologian and educator Michael Barnett, focuses on Fuller’s life and work in New England, New York, and Europe.
7 to 9 p.m., BuxMont Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 2040 Street Rd., Room 105, Warrington, Pa. Contact: Michael Barnett, 215-256-8481, mbarnett@tradenet.net; or the church, 215-343-0406, www.buxmontuu.org.

March 20, Chicago: “UU Women As Agents of Change,” a Margaret Fuller Conversation salon, lunch, and recognition of women agents of change in UU congregations, with entertainment by MOMSthatROCK! featuring Anna Fermin. An “Agents of Change” booklet featuring honorees and their stories will be available.
9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Third Unitarian Church of Chicago, 301 N. Mayfield, Chicago; $15, honorees free. Sponsored by the UU Women’s Connection and Central Midwest District Women and Religion Committee. Contact: connections@uuwomensconnection.org. Registration: www.womenandreligion.org.

March 20, West Roxbury, Mass.: Character reenactor Jessa Piaia will present “Meet Margaret Fuller in West Roxbury on the Spring Equinox,” depicting the day of March 20, 1845, when Fuller was back in town from Manhattan. She reminisces about her days growing up in Cambridgeport and Boston, her literary achievements, her relationship with the Transcendentalists and Brook Farm residents, and her present employment as first female literary critic for The New York Daily Tribune.
1 to 2 p.m., West Roxbury Public Library, 1961 Centre St., West Roxbury, Mass. Cosponsored by the library and the West Roxbury Historical Society. Contact: Bob Murphy, 617-327-6331.

March 21, North Palm Beach, Fla.: “Call Her Marquesa: Margaret Fuller in Italy,” a Sunday service will honor Margaret Fuller’s transformation from a New England bluestocking to a passionately ripe revolutionary in Italy. The service will feature period Italian operatic music and dramatic historical characters.
10:30 to 11:30 a.m., First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Palm Beaches, 635 Prosperity Farms Rd., North Palm Beach, Fla. Contact: Paul Coleman, 561-635-9246, samovar.paul@gmail.com; or the church, 561-627-6105, www.uunpb.org.

March 21, Telford, Pa.: Michael Barnett will speak on Margaret Fuller’s work for women’s rights, social justice, and democracy in a talk called “Happy Birthday, Margaret Fuller! Transcendentalist, Critic, and Foreign Correspondent.”
2 to 3 p.m., Indian Valley Public Library, 100 East Church Ave., Telford, Pa. Contact: Michael Barnett, 215-256-8481, mbarnett@tradenet.net; or the library, 215-723-9109, www.ivpl.org.

March 22 to June 30, Boston. “A More Interior Revolution: Elizabeth Peabody, Margaret Fuller, and the Women of the American Renaissance” will be on exhibit at the Massachusetts Historical Society. Curator Megan Marshall, author of a biography on the Peabody sisters and a forthcoming book about Fuller, has selected letters and journals written by Fuller and Peabody, with writings and art by other women who participated in the New England literary renaissance between 1830 and 1850.
1 to 4 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays, (opening reception, 2 to 4 p.m., Saturday, March 20, for members and fellows only), Massachusetts Historical Society, 1154 Boylston St., Boston. Contact: 617-536-1608, membership@masshist.org, www.masshist.org.

March 27, Boston. Peter Drummey, the Stephen T. Riley Librarian of the Massachusetts Historical Society, will give gallery talks on “The Lost Letters of Margaret Fuller” as part of the society’s annual open house and in celebration of Women’s History Month.
11 a.m. and 1 p.m., Massachusetts Historical Society, 1154 Boylston St., Boston. Contact: 617-536-1608, membership@masshist.org, www.masshist.org.

April 8–10, Boston: “Margaret Fuller and Her Circles” conference, with a keynote address Thursday night on “The Measure of My Footprint: Margaret Fuller’s Unfinished Revolution” by Mary Kelley of the University of Michigan, which is free and open to the public. On Friday and Saturday, Fuller scholars from around the country will present sessions on “Fuller and Women,” “Fuller and Antebellum Movements,” “Fuller and Urban Culture,” and “The Transatlantic Fuller.”
6 to 8 p.m., April 8; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., April 9, 10; Massachusetts Historical Society, 1154 Boylston St., Boston. $75, $50 for students. Contact: Kate Viens, 617-646-0568, www.masshist.org.

April 12, 19, and 26, Harleysville, Pa.: Michael Barnett will teach his three-part class “Happy Birthday, Margaret Fuller! Transcendentalist, Critic, and Foreign Correspondent” as part of the Souderton Area Community Education program.
7 to 9 p.m., Indian Valley Middle School, 130 Maple Ave., Harleysville, Pa.; $35. Contact: Michael Barnett, 215-256-8481, mbarnett@tradenet.net, www.soudertonsd.org.

April 14 to May 9, Salt Lake City: World premiere of the play “Charm,” about Margaret Fuller, by Kathleen Cahill, directed by Meg Gibson. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau get knocked off their pedestals by a free spirit in this magical, surreal, and transcendentally goofy play. “I hope audiences will think about how history can hide its heroes, how things change and stay the same, how, in the Transcendentalists, America once had an alternative tradition to materialism, militarism, and empire,” Cahill says.
7:30 p.m. opening night celebration, Friday, April 16; then 7:30 p.m., Wednesdays and Thursdays (including previews April 14-15); 8 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sundays; Salt Lake Acting Company, 168 W. 500 North, Salt Lake City; $12 to $37. Contact: 801-363-7522, www.saltlakeactingcompany.org.

April 17, Salem, Mass.: “Margaret Fuller and Her Friends: Women in the American Renaissance,” session at the spring conference of the New England Historical Association. Papers will be presented by Laurie Crumpacker of Simmons College on “Teaching about Margaret Fuller and the American Renaissance in a 21st-Century Classroom”; by Paula Doress-Worters of Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center on “Mistress of Herself: Speeches and Letters of Ernestine L. Rose, Early Women’s Rights Leader”; and by Rosie Rosenzweig also of Brandeis on “The Relevance of Lydia Maria Child to 21st-Century Feminism.”
10:30 a.m., Room CC244, Salem State College, Salem, Mass. Contact: Laurie Crumpacker, laurie.crumpacker@simmons.edu, users.wpi.edu/~jphanlan/NEHA/.

April 21 to May 31, Boston: “Why Margaret Fuller Matters,” an exhibit on Fuller’s life, work, and legacy, will be on display at the Boston Public Library’s collection. Susan Glover, Keeper of Special Collections for the library, will give a gallery talk on the opening day.
11 a.m. gallery talk on April 21; display will be on view, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Mondays to Thursdays, and until 5 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays; Koussevitzsky Room (adjacent to the Rare Books Lobby), Boston Public Library, 700 Boylston St. (Copley Square), Boston. Cosponsored by the Margaret Fuller Bicentennial Committee of Boston, Boston Public Library Rare Books Department, Boston Women’s Commission, and the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail. Contact: www.margaretfuller.org, www.bpl.org.

May 1, Boston: “Margaret Fuller’s Footsteps in Boston,” a walking tour of sites where Fuller lived, worked, and visited, led by Mary Howland Smoyer and Bonnie Hurd Smith.
10 to 11:30 a.m., rain or shine; meet at the Boston Common marker at Park Street Station, intersection of Tremont and Park streets, Boston; $10. Contact: Bonnie Hurd Smith, bmhsmith@comcast.net.

May 6, New York City: “A Medley for Margaret Fuller,” a staged presentation of Fuller’s life story and accomplishments, with eight actors reading from her writings, adapted and directed by Laurie James and featuring poet Daniela Gioseffi. American Studies professor Marc Dolan will give an introduction.
7:30 p.m., The Graduate Center, City University of New York, 365 Fifth Ave., New York City. Cosponsored by the Margaret Fuller Bicentennial Committee of New York, the UU Women’s Association, the UU Women and Religion Metro District, and the Center for the Study of Women and Society at the university. Contact: Laurie James, goldenheritage@nyc.rr.com, www.lauriejames.net.

May 11, New York City: “Men, Women, and Margaret Fuller,” a dramatic presentation of Margaret Fuller’s life and achievements, with slides of her Transcendentalist circle of friends, by author and actress Laurie James. Madeline Hansen, women’s history lecturer, and Karin Taylor, director of the Center for Independent Publishing (CIP), will give introductions.
6:30 p.m., The General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen, 20 W. 44th St., New York City. Cosponsored by the Margaret Fuller Bicentennial Committee of New York, UUWA, and UU Women and Religion Metro District, and CIP, an educational program of the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen. Contact: Laurie James, goldenheritage@nyc.rr.com, www.lauriejames.net.

May 15, Cambridge, Mass.: “Why Margaret Fuller Matters,” the fourth in a series of Margaret Fuller Conversations, with a discussion about Fuller’s legacy and her relevance to women today, led by Laurie Crumpacker of Simmons College.
2 p.m., Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House, 71 Cherry St., Cambridge, Mass. Contact: Jessica Lipnack, jessica.lipnack@netage.com.

May 21-23, Concord, Mass.: The Transcendentalism Council at First Parish in Concord is celebrating the Margaret Fuller bicentennial with “Concord Celebrates the Margaret Fuller Bicentennial,” a weekend full of events. Contact: 978-369-9602, fpcontact@firstparish.org, www.firstparish.org/margaretfuller

  • Charles Capper, author of the two-volume Margaret Fuller: An American Romantic Life and professor of history at Boston University, will deliver the keynote address, “Margaret Fuller in Time.” A reception and book signing will follow.
    7 p.m., May 21, Concord Free Public Library, 129 Main St., Concord, Mass. Contact: 978-318-3300, cosponsored by the Concord Free Public Library, Special Collections.

  • The Rev. Jenny Rankin will moderate a panel discussion with three Margaret Fuller scholars: Brigitte Bailey of the University of New Hampshire, past president of the Margaret Fuller Society; Michael Barnett of Montgomery County (Pa.) Community College; and Joan von Mehren, president of the Margaret Fuller Society and author of Minerva and the Muse: The Life of Margaret Fuller.
    10 a.m., May 22, First Parish Meetinghouse, 20 Lexington Rd., Concord, Mass. Cosponsored by the Thoreau Society and the Emerson Forum.

  • The Rev. Jenny Rankin and other guides will lead themed tours of sites Margaret Fuller visited in Concord (Emerson House and the Old Manse) with a stop at the Concord Museum to view Fuller artifacts.
    1:30 p.m., May 22, by reservation (space limited) after April 1 at 978-369-9602. Go to www.firstparish.org/margaretfuller for tour details and fee information. Cosponsored by Emerson House, The Old Manse and the Concord Museum.

  • A concert of “Chamber Music of the Transcendental Period (1819–1896)” will be performed by Lillian Braden on violin, Joan Esch on cello, and Susan Minor on piano, playing Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 17 (1847) by Clara Schumann. The preeminent concert pianist of the nineteenth century, Schumann defied the prejudices of the time against women composers. A wine and cheese reception will follow.
    4 p.m., May 22, First Parish Meetinghouse, 20 Lexington Rd., Concord, Mass. Sponsored by the Arts Council of First Parish in Concord.

  • “Margaret Fuller’s Universe,” a play by Agnes Butcher and Sayre Sheldon will be performed as a staged reading with costumes by members of the Arts Council of First Parish in Concord.
    8 p.m., May 22, First Parish Meetinghouse, 20 Lexington Rd., Concord, Mass. Tickets ($10/person) will be available after April 1 at 978-369-9602 and also at the door.

  • The two morning worship services at the First Parish in Concord, led by the Rev. Jenny Rankin, will celebrate and reflect on the life of Margaret Fuller. The First Parish Choir, under the direction of Elizabeth Norton, will perform “New Worlds Manifest,” lyrics by Ed Thomas, composed by Laura Lucille Halfvarson, the winner of the Margaret Fuller Hymn Competition. Birthday cake will be served at coffee hour.
    9 a.m. and 11 a.m., May 23, First Parish Meetinghouse, 20 Lexington Rd., Concord, Mass.

  • Two exhibits will be on display in the Concord Parish Hall throughout the weekend: “Photographs of Transcendentalist Sites” by the First Parish Photography Club and “Why Margaret Fuller Matters,” a series of text-and-image panels created by graphic designer and author Bonnie Hurd Smith for the UUA Margaret Fuller Bicentennial Committee. Cosponsored by the Photo Club and the Women’s Parish Association of First Parish in Concord.

May 22, New York City: “Follow the Footsteps of Margaret Fuller in New York City,” a walking or pedicab tour, with guides Reena Kondo and Heidi Siegfried, from Horace Greeley’s Farm at 49th Street and First Avenue to The New York Tribune office at Nassau and Spruce streets. Actors/scholars in costume will share stories, skits, and songs, in character as Margaret Fuller, Horace Greeley, Edgar Allen Poe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Lydia Maria Child, and other nineteenth-century friends who lived, worked, and visited in New York City.
10 a.m., meet near the gazebo in Peter Detmold Park, far end of East 49th Street at Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive, New York City: $10 for tour; lunch and advance-reservation pedicab additional. Contact: Reena Kondo, reenakondo@verizon.net, or Laurie James, goldenheritage@nyc.rr.com, www.lauriejames.net.

May 23, Cambridge, Mass.: The Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House will host a family friendly birthday celebration at the birthplace and childhood home of Margaret Fuller, a Federal period home registered as a National Historic Landmark that has been providing services to the community since 1902. Actress Jessa Piaia will appear as Fuller and address her party guests.
Time TBA, Fuller Neighborhood House, 71 Cherry St., Cambridge, Mass. Contact: 617-547-4680, www.margaretfullerhouse.org.

May 23 to June 20, Cambridge, Mass.: “Woman in the 21st Century: Margaret Fuller and the Sacred Marriage,” a multimedia exhibition of contemporary art and performance.
6 to 8 p.m. opening celebration on May 23; 2 to 4 p.m. closing performance and salon on June 20; with the exhibition open noon to 8 p.m. daily; Pierre Menard Gallery, 10 Arrow St., Cambridge, Mass. Contact: Lisa Paul Streitfeld, 203-273-6813, lisapaul1000@aol.com; or gallery director, Andrea Kalinowski, 617-868-2033, www.pierremenardgallery.com.

May 23, New York City: The Rev. Bruce Southworth will lead a worship service celebrating Margaret Fuller, which will be followed by a birthday party, featuring a reading of “O Excellent Friend!” by Laurie James, a play based on the letters and journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Margaret Fuller. Women’s history lecturer Madeline Hansen and UUWA chair Reena Kondo will give introductions.
11 a.m., Community Church of New York, 40 E. 35th St., New York City. Cosponsored by the church and the Margaret Fuller Bicentennial Committee of New York. Contact the church at 212-683-4988, info@ccny.org; or Laurie James, goldenheritage@nyc.rr.com, www.lauriejames.net.

May 23, North Palm Beach, Fla.: Margaret Fuller 200th Birthday Celebration, a Sunday service in tribute to Fuller, focusing on her pioneer work as a human rights reporter for The New York Tribune. The congregation will celebrate its annual “un-birthday” party in the Margaret Fuller Room following the service.
10:30 to 11:30 a.m., First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Palm Beaches, 635 Prosperity Farms Road, North Palm Beach, Fla. Contact: Paul Coleman, 561-635-9246, samovar.paul@gmail.com; or the church, 561-627 6105, www.uunpb.org.

June 17-20, Belmont, Mass.: “The Margaret Ghost: A Transcendental Love Story,” a three-act play by Carole Braverman, will be staged by Theatre at First, directed by Elizabeth Hunter. The play, which premiered in Berkeley in 1984, follows the sweep of Fuller’s life from Boston, to New York, to Rome, capturing her intellect, wit, and visionary struggle against the confines of her nineteenth-century world.
8 p.m., June 17, 18, and 19; 3 p.m., June 20; with a gala reception at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 19; First Church in Belmont, Unitarian Universalist, 404 Concord Ave., Belmont, Mass.; $12 to $15; $25 for gala. Contact: 888-874-7554, www.TheatreAtFirst.org.

June 24-25, Minneapolis: All three committees will be sponsoring presentations at the UUA General Assembly at the Minneapolis Convention Center, 1301 2nd Ave. S., Minneapolis. Contact: garegistrar@uua.org, www.uua.org/events/generalassembly.

  • Laurie James, author, actress, and chair of the Margaret Fuller Bicentennial Committee of New York, will perform her original, one-woman drama, “Men, Women, and Margaret Fuller.” Through Fuller’s own words you will see, hear, and imagine the beginnings of the feminist viewpoints and principles that laid the groundwork for the women’s rights movement in the United States.
    2:45 to 4 p.m., June 24, Minneapolis Convention Center, Room 200 ABIJ.

  • Cynthia Grant Tucker of the University of Memphis will lead “Memory’s Ministry,” a workshop sponsored by the Margaret Fuller Bicentennial Committee of Boston, on memory’s redemptive powers to bring about equality and inclusion. How can we harness those powers to strengthen our congregations? Beginning with Fuller’s story, we’ll look at methods and implications of gathering oral history, interpreting photographs, and entering the sacred space of letters and diaries.
    1 to 2:15 p.m., June 25, Minneapolis Convention Center, Room 200 ABIJ

  • “Margaret Fuller: A Woman for the 21st Century,” sponsored by the UUA SMF Bicentennial Committee, a panel of four Fuller scholars will consider her life and her significance to our modern Unitarian Universalist faith: Lawrence Buell of Harvard, author of Emerson; Charles Capper of Boston University, author of the two-volume biography Margaret Fuller: An American Romantic Life; Megan Marshall, author of the forthcoming biography The Passion of Margaret Fuller. Moderated by David Robinson of Oregon State University, who is at work on a book about Margaret Fuller and the Transcendentalist movement. The winner of the Margaret Fuller Hymn Competition, “New Worlds Manifest,” lyrics by Ed Thomas, music by Laura Lucille Halfvarson, will be sung.
    2:45 to 4 p.m, June 25, Minneapolis Convention Center, Ballroom A.

July 18, Cambridge, Mass.: To honor the anniversary of Margaret Fuller’s death, local historians will gather for a ceremony to lay a wreath at the cenotaph erected in her memory.
Time TBA, Mount Auburn Cemetery, 580 Mount Auburn St., Cambridge, Mass. Contact: 617-547-7105, www.mountauburn.org.

October 1-3, Boston, Cambridge, Concord: A weekend tour, guided by Reena Kondo and Laurie James. Itinerary will include stops at Fuller’s birthplace; Fuller statue; Mount Auburn Cemetery; Harvard Yard; Emerson House; Walden Pond and Thoreau’s cabin; Old Manse; Orchard House; Elizabeth Peabody’s bookstore; Boston Common; UUA headquarters; as well as videos and scholar’s talks.
1 p.m., October 1, meet at Eliot & Pickett Guest House, 6 Mt. Vernon Pl., Boston (behind UUA headquarters). From $395 includes two nights lodging, bus tour, some meals, entrance fees; excludes transport to Boston. Contact: goldenheritage@nyc.rr.com, www.lauriejames.net.

October 17-27, Italy: A ten-day tour, guided by Lynn Gross, Mario Bannoni, and Laurie James, will follow Margaret Fuller’s footsteps in Rome, Florence, and Rieti, Italy. Stops will include the Vatican, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s, Coliseum, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Castel Saint Angelo, Cafe Greco, Tiber Island, Trastevere, Janiculum Hill, Pincian Hill, Plaza Barbarini, the Barbarini Palace, Villa Borghese, Pantheon, the Corso, Santa Maria Maggiore, Ossoli Chapel, Viale Margaret Fuller Ossoli, the Quirinal, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Casa Guido.
8 p.m., October 17, meet at Starhotel Michelangelo, Rome. From $2,600 per person, excluding air fare. Contact: ljgart@aol.com, www.lauriejames.net.

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