Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Margaret Fuller Ossoli
Margaret Fuller, in some respects the most remarkable of American women, lived a
pathetic life and died a tragic death. Without money and without beauty, she became the
idol of an immense circle of friends; men and women were alike her devotees. It is the
old story: that the woman of brain makes lasting conquests of hearts, while the pretty face
holds its sway only for a month or a year.
Margaret, born in Cambridgeport, Mass., May 23, 1810, was the oldest child of a
scholarly lawyer, Mr. Timothy Fuller, and of a sweet-tempered, devoted mother. The
father, with small means, had one absorbing purpose in life,--to see that each of his
children was finely educated. To do this, and make ends meet, was a struggle. His
daughter said, years after, in writing of him: "His love for my mother was the green spot
on which he stood apart from the commonplaces of a mere bread-winning existence. She
was one of those fair and flower-like natures, which sometimes spring up even beside the
most dusty highways of life. Of all persons whom I have known, she had in her most of
the angelic,--of that spontaneous love for every living thing, for man and beast and tree,
which restores the Golden Age."
Very fond of his oldest child, Margaret, the father determined that she should be as well
educated as his boys. In those days there were no colleges for girls, and none where they
might enter with their brothers, so that Mr. Fuller was obliged to teach his daughter after
the wearing work of the day. The bright child began to read Latin at six, but was
necessarily kept up late for the recitation. When a little later she was walking in her sleep,
and dreaming strange dreams, he did not see that he was overtaxing both her body and
brain. When the lessons had been learned, she would go into the library, and read eagerly.
One Sunday afternoon, when she was eight years old, she took down Shakespeare from
the shelves, opened at Romeo and Juliet, and soon became fascinated with the story.
"What are you reading?" asked her father.
"Shakespeare," was the answer, not lifting her eyes from the page.
"That won't do--that's no book for Sunday; go put it away, and take another."
Margaret did as she was bidden; but the temptation was too strong, and the book was
soon in her hands again.
"What is that child about, that she don't hear a word we say?" said an aunt.
Seeing what she was reading, the father said, angrily, "Give me the book, and go directly
There could have been a wiser and gentler way of control, but he had not learned that it is
better to lead children than to drive them.