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"The Wrecking Ground, pt. 3" by Lee Huttner

"The Wrecking Ground" is an essay told in parts by Lee Huttner. We will be publishing a new part each week on our blog. Stay tuned!


In her celebrated 1844 book Woman in the Nineteenth Century, Margaret Fuller writes of an imagined acquaintance named Miranda, who functions as her alter ego. Miranda, writes Fuller, was educated by a father who firmly believed in the equality of the sexes, providing his daughter with a rich education and instilling in her a sense of self-worth. Fuller’s choice of the name “Miranda” harkens to Shakespeare’s The Tempest. The exiled Prospero’s only daughter, Miranda, is raised on an enchanted island. The play opens with the titular storm and a shipwreck conjured by Prospero, which Miranda observes from the shore. “O, I have suffered with those that I saw suffer,” Miranda cries to her father, “a brave vessel, who had, no doubt, some noble creature in her, dash’d all to pieces. O, the cry did knock against my very heart. Poor souls, they perish’d.”

One of only a few women in the Transcendental Club, Fuller was herself a popular journalist, essayist, and lecturer, editor of the journal The Dial, and foundational figure in the history of feminism. In 1846 she traveled to Europe and would never again set foot on American soil. In Italy, she met and fell in love with Giovanni D’Ossoli, a darkly handsome, impoverished, illiterate revolutionary ten years her junior, with whom she had an illegitimate child. Effectively working as an embedded foreign correspondent, Fuller wrote to American periodicals, reporting on the revolutions of the Italian states seeking to liberate themselves from Austrian control. Surrounded by explosions and working in a hospital for the wounded in Rome, Fuller also composed a history of the revolution which she considered her most important work. Fleeing Italy as republican forces met defeat, Fuller, her husband, and their child, Nino, decided to board the Elizabeth and make the five-week journey to America.

The year of her death, Margaret wrote to a friend, “I am absurdly fearful and various omens have combined to give me a dark feeling... It seems to me that my future upon earth will soon close... I have a vague expectation of some crisis—I know not what.”

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