Margaret Fuller could well be remembered as either a Feminist matriarch or, as Nathaniel Hawthore described her, "A great humbug defective and evil in nature" (McQuade 1305). In Fuller's essay "The Great Lawsuit" which she later expanded into Woman in the Nineteenth Century, she produces her insurrectionary thoughts and ideas about the inequality of women. This paper will consider the traditional attitudes towards women, Margaret Fuller's ideologies and how the influences of the Transcendentalists may have inspired this work. .
The role of women in the nineteenth century was no different from what it had been for centuries before. In America as well as most Western cultures abroad, women's place in society was valued little above the livestock, slaves or other property that men owned. Few were educated due to the prevalent belief that women didn't have the capacity to learn and that women were predestined to lives of domestic servitude. Women universally agreed to this inferior status with a commitment to achieve, preserve and insure domesticity and harmony for all.
In nineteenth century America, small groups of Americans were involved in great conflicts and arguments in regards to the inhumane treatment of many of their brethren. With the inhumane treatment of slaves and the relocation of Native Americans to reservations, rhetorical battles were being fought and movements were emerging to champion the establishment of equal rights for all humanity. The Transcendentalist movement was evolving into an influential iconoclast to the well-established Protestant ethic. American literature was entering its renaissance era and "struggling for recognition and credibility (McQuade 1305).
The role of women in the nineteenth century was to sustain the domestic realm by being the ultimate nurturer of the family and fulfilling their conjugal duties. Margaret Fuller was one of the scarce population of women who, during this time in American history took the stage in an attempt to establish the ideology that women as well as men were " two halves of one thought daughters and sons of time; twin exponents of a divine thought" (Fuller 1311).