Enjoyment Exceeding Expectations

Reader’s Forum

By Steve Hough

My enjoyment of “Margaret Fuller: A New American Life” exceeded my expectations.

Upon being invited to read the book, I was intrigued by the fact that I had never heard of her. I was somewhat familiar with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, having remembered them from a high school history class. Who was this Margaret Fuller, and why had she been overlooked?

Steve Hough

Steve Hough

The person who telephoned me with an invitation mentioned her association with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. I told the caller I had participated in one conference call previously, but had not yet read a book club selection. I told him that I do read a good bit, but have irons in many fires. I did not check the timeline for Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, at the time, nor google Margaret Fuller for background information. The question remained in the back of my mind.

After reading another book first, I took the plunge. I read the selection on a Kindle reader app and, although realizing early on the bibliography would be extensive, I feared I would not finish in time for the conference call. As it turned out, I finished the book with twenty-four hours to spare.

I enjoyed the conference call; especially having the author participate.

Margaret and her associates were persons of letters and, as I read, I was in awe of the number having been preserved. Not so much the letters of the more famous personalities, but those of her friends of lesser note, both male and female. The amount of time researching the book must have been staggering. Even though Ms. Marshall acknowledged the scholarship of others which preceded her research, I am still struck by depth of thought expressed in the letters of that era and appreciative of Ms. Marshall’s dedication to her task.

I identified early on with Margaret’s fear that she might “die and leave no trace”. In a time when the telephone has replaced letter writing and everyone and their dog (or cat) has a personal website, a blog or Facebook page; a time when a popular mode of personal communication is restricted to one hundred forty characters or less, a digital trace is easily achieved. However, anyone of Margaret’s mindset must still do more in order to leave “an indelible mark of distinction”.

Having come of age in an era when Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem were standard bearers of the “women’s movement”, it is no stretch of the imagination to recognize that the goal of gender equality has yet to be achieved.  “You’ve come a long way baby” may have been a nifty slogan for marketing a cigarette brand to women, in its time, and women may have come a long way since, but there is still a way to go.

While who might leave the next indelible mark of distinction is speculative and open to argument, I believe Margaret Fuller deserves a more prominent place in the history of expanding women’s rights. Had she not been a trailblazer, history very likely would have unfolded differently.

Steve Hough is a retired accountant and a lifelong independent.  Steve has recently become active with IndependentVoting.org, organizing fellow independents in Panama City, FL in support of Top Two Open Primaries.




P4P Conference Call tonight at 7 pm EST


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Conference Call with Megan Marshall Sunday Evening

I am looking forward to our conference call tomorrow evening with Megan Marshall, the author of MARGARET FULLER: A New American Life.  Megan sent us this article from The Slatest reporting on the GOP Debate and how the candidates responded to the question of what woman they would like to see on the 10 dollar bill. Megan thought we would be interested in how the candidates responded–take a look below.

Perhaps we don’t know the heroines of American history very well.  Thanks to Megan, we have gotten to know the revolutionary heroine Margaret Fuller .

Please join us for a rich conversation tomorrow evening.

Politics for the People Conference Call

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Sunday, September 20th at 7 pm EST


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The Slatest
SEPT. 16 2015 11:37 PM

GOP Candidates, Asked to Name Iconic American Women, Cite Foreigners and Their Relatives

Republican candidates at tonight’s presidential debate at the Reagan Library.

Sandy Huffaker/Getty

CNN’s Jake Tapper asked the 11 candidates in Wednesday night’s main-event Republican presidential debate which woman they would want to put on the $10 bill. In other words, “name any historically important female American.” Here are their answers:

  • Rand Paul: Susan B. Anthony.
  • Mike Huckabee: His wife.
  • Marco Rubio: Rosa Parks.
  • Ted Cruz: Rosa Parks (but on the $20; he’d keep Hamilton on the $10).
  • Ben Carson: His mother.
  • Donald Trump: His daughter or Rosa Parks.
  • Jeb Bush: Margaret Thatcher.
  • Scott Walker: Clara Barton.
  • Carly Fiorina: Wouldn’t change the bill.
  • John Kasich: Mother Theresa.
  • Chris Christie: Abigail Adams.

Forty-five percent of those people are not historically important female Americans.

Reader’s Forum

Margaret Fuller: Writer and Activist.

By: Dr. Jessie Fields

With the excitement of embarking on a new book that I would explore as part of the Politics for the People Book Club I the opened the biography, Margaret Fuller, A New American Life by Megan Marshall. Thus began a journey of learning about and from a woman who lived for forty years in the first part of the nineteenth century and was a pioneer as a writer, journalist, intellectual and activist.

Dr. Jessie Fields (holding the Open Our Democracy Sign) with independent leaders and activists at the West Indian Day Parade. Photo by Allen Cox

Margaret Fuller lived from 1810 to 1850. She lived mainly in Boston and Cambridge, New England, then in New York City and later she traveled through Europe and Italy. She was a prolific writer and wrote for and edited the Transcendentalist Journal the Dial. She wrote the proto feminist Woman of the Nineteenth Century, calling for equality for women.

She wrote editorials arguing in favor of voting rights for black New Yorkers in “What Fits a Man to Be a Voter?” and against capital punishment in “Darkness Visible”. She expressed her protean interests in writings on literary texts and works of art such as in her essay “Papers on Literature and Art”. Fuller’s writing is resonant with insight and vision for the future.

For 18 months she wrote a front page column for Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune, followed by a European tour as foreign correspondent, supporter and witness to the revolutions across Europe in 1848 and the 1848-1849 Roman revolution, which she served as a military nurse on the streets of Rome.

Megan Marshall sets out as she states in the prologue to write of Margaret Fuller’s life  “the full story—operatic in its emotional pitch, global in its dimensions.” Marshall succeeds and with power and intimacy conveys the history of a leader who broke through the barriers of her time.

Jessie Fields is a physician in Harlem and a founder of the NYC Independence Party. She serves on boards of Open Primaries and the All Stars Project.


Politics for the People Conference Call

With Megan Marshall

Sunday, September 20th at 7 pm EST


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Don’t Dismiss the Visionaries

Reader’s Forum

By Patrick McWhortor

No matter what century or what era serves as the backdrop for an individual life –  the stage on which a person performs her own drama – it is usually constrained by the norms, assumptions and restrictions enveloping that era. We have a strong sense of what is right and what is wrong in our time. We accept the rules as a given in our time. We see the world through the lens fastened to our eyes by our own time.

For most of us, this is true. But for some of us, the restrictive lenses are thrown off, the scenery of the era is shattered, and the rules are set aside. For these few, they see a world that could be, not only the world that is.

Margaret Fuller: A New American Life peers into the life of one of these individuals. Margaret was an enigmatic woman who somehow defied the time in which she lived to suggest a different way of looking at the world. Her life was lived in the first half of the nineteenth century, when the United States was still trying to figure out what it was. It was a toddler of a nation, exploring, probing, testing ideas, falling down and standing up again, yet still beholden to the parental norms of the world that gave it birth in 1776.

Patrick McWhorter with Nancy Ross of Independent Voting

Patrick McWhortor with Nancy Ross of Independent Voting

So, as I read about Fuller’s life, I kept reminding myself that it was a different time. This was the early 1800’s. This was a world in which the way most of us today view women and their roles in our lives would be scandalous. If I were to drop into Margaret’s world, I would be abhorred at her treatment. (And I don’t even want to think what my wife would say and do.) But Margaret would be the exceptions. Her views and mine would likely meld.

Put another way, if Margaret could join us in our world today, and see how many norms, rules and expectations have changed, she would surely be ecstatic. In essence, she would realize she was on to something.

This was one of the most significant take-aways of this biography for me. Margaret Fuller was ahead of her time. She could see, almost as if she had visited our world today, a different reality. She struggled throughout her life to fit in with her world precisely because she didn’t.

I admit that in the opening pages of the book, I struggled with Margaret’s story. The role her father played in defining, shaping, yet also controlling her, frustrated me. I just could not identify with what was happening, and I did not want to know more about the demeaning context of her life, most of all the fact that she was property, not a person. This was appalling to my 21st century American sensibility.

But Margaret drew me in. As her story unfolded, I began to understand that she was seeing things the way I was. Somehow, Margaret persisted in battling against the demeaning reality of her era’s beliefs about women. But it was not one linear progression. Rather, I began reading about so many Margarets through the course of her life, veering in one direction after another to figure out if there was a place for her. And I identified with Margaret’s journey. l witnessed the push and pull of the relationship to her father, the duty she performed for her family, the attraction to so many intellectual giants, the experimentation with teaching in a new way, the struggle to find her voice as a writer. Margaret had to live in this world where she did not belong, and kept looking for a path that would be her own. And I was hooked. I had to follow the path to the end. I had to know: did find her place?

And as I followed that path, I began to understand what Margaret Fuller meant to her time and to ours. I began to appreciate that, step by step, she was becoming America’s first true feminist. There was a growing familiarity about Margaret to me, because she seemed to belong in my century, not hers, and I began to realize that her struggle would inspire the launches of struggles of so many others for equality and power.

And that is when the book’s momentum kicked in. Having spent many of the early pages wondering how this almost tragic beginning to a life was going to mean anything to me two centuries later, I began to see the arc of her story take shape by the middle chapters. I had to press on, had to know why she is such an important American of our nation’s early years.

I picked up about two-thirds of the way through the book as I boarded a flight to New York City from Phoenix. I thought I would make a little more progress, but not sure I could finish it by the time I landed. But finish it I did – incredibly, just as we landed. (And for those who know the book’s ending, you will appreciate that I was literally flying over the final scenes of Margaret’s story as I am reading them. How unplanned, as I really did not know the particulars of how her life ended.)

And thus I found myself moved by Margaret Fuller’s story. I followed her path to the end. In fact, I can say that I almost feel like I know Margaret now. I see her in the strong women I am blessed to have in my life. I share a blissful thirty year marriage to someone who has all the strength of a Margaret Fuller and stands on Margaret’s shoulders in our modern world. And I think Margaret would find in our marriage one example of the fusion she struggled to define and explain to her nineteenth-century bound compatriots.

This would be enough, to understand Margaret’s contribution to the goal of full equality for men and women. But her story for me goes beyond the inspiration she offered to suffragists, champions of equal rights, and modern day feminists.

Her story reminds me that we should not easily dismiss the visionaries among us who challenge our reality. We should pay attention to those who imagine a world that seems impossible. It doesn’t mean they all have it right. But we should not dismiss them. These rebels may be saying something important.

That is what many of us are doing in the independent movement and election reform movement. We are facing a political world constrained by so many assumptions, norms, rules and expectations that our fellow citizens cannot see another reality. They don’t believe it can change.

But there are Margaret Fullers among us trying to challenge us to see a new reality. They are defining our future, if we can see it. And just as Margaret did, they are laying the groundwork for the next revolution.

Margaret’s life is emblematic of the hope for a new future that has driven generations of Americans to build a better world. This is our common ideology. Megan Marshall’s wonderful biography offers us a powerful story of how this one woman, living way ahead of her time, made our world today a better place. And I hope it inspires in anyone who reads it the belief that we can do the same for the world of our descendants.

Patrick McWhortor is the Arizona Campaign Director for Open Primaries.  He lives in Cave Creek with his wife.


Politics for the People Conference Call

With Megan Marshall

Sunday, September 20th at 7 pm EST


641 715-3605, Code 767775#

Natesha & Margaret Meet

Reader’s Forum

By Natesha Oliver

Natesha Oliver (r) with Cathy Stewart and Politics for the People member, Cheryl White (l) National Conference of Independents, NYC, March 2015

Natesha Oliver (l) with Cathy Stewart and Politics for the People member, Cheryl White (r) National Conference of Independents, NYC, March 2015

Brightest Blessings To All:
First and most importantly BIG UPS to the author Megan Marshall for her ingenuity of insight in how she told the story of Margaret Fuller utilizing Margaret’s own words… That was AWESOME… And much thanks to Megan Marshall for this being a learning moment for me, I am not the dumbest tree in the forest yet with this book I had to up my comprehension skills quite a bit and THANK ALL THINGS HOLY for the dictionary…

The book itself was emotion evoking on a level that deeply resonates with me as a woman looking for the “highest grade” when it comes to intimate connections and as a woman “striving to discover and attain””everything she might be”… When women like Margaret Fuller comes along it is said “they are before their time”, which has always been a tad bit off because she was born then so it was her time then…

Margaret’s spiritual realizations were just as deeply personal for her and that is inspiring because she wasn’t one to conform to popular belief. Her ability to think in a “Man’s World” just tickles my fancy because it wasn’t the fact that she had the ability to speak among them as an equal mind, she had the ability to show them a thing or two and men in those days felt more intimated by a intellectual woman then than they do now… Although it is interesting that in certain circles of intellectual life women are still looked upon as the “softer sex”… I don’t know what is more offensive, that men still think that or that women still play the part… And I for one know that being the object of men’s affections are more dangerous than divine and that striving to be an intellectual equal is still a challenge… Margaret Fuller oddly enough did not see her actions as progress for women yet she saw herself as the voice to make the way for women coming behind her… Her own struggles with love and life were probably way more tumultuous than we could comprehend.  At least in these days women have some measure of law and civil consideration to expand, except in the financial department where men still make more money than women, WHAT”S UP WITH THAT!!!

I would like to say that Margaret leaving her son like that after being so torn in how others were leaves me to believe that she adopted men’s ways in a way that drove her to mirror their path for attaining success (this is my opinion men so don’t bite my head off).

In closing Margaret Fuller’s life and Megan Marshall telling of it shows the courage and dedication that women possess… MEN LOOK OUT YOU ACTUALLY DO HAVE TO SHARE THIS WORLD, EQUALLY!!!

“Man and woman, she asserted, were two halves of the “same thought”.  Neither “idea” could be fully realized as long as man failed to see that woman’s “interests were identical with his; and that, by law of common being, he could never reach his true proportions while she remained in any wise shorn of hers”.

Natesha Oliver is the founder of MIST, Missouri Independents Stand Together. She lives in Kansas City.


Politics for the People Conference Call

With Megan Marshall

Sunday, September 20th at 7 pm EST


641 715-3605, Code 767775#



This Cause is Your Own

Reader’s Forum

By Caroline Donnola

Megan Marshall’s wonderful book, Margaret Fuller: A New American Life, is taking me back in time to my earliest introduction to Margaret Fuller and the moment in my life when I first began to discover the history of progressive leaders and the movements that created them.

In the fall of 1972 I began my first semester at Franconia College in the White Mountains of northern New Hampshire.  Franconia was a small, experimental college that empowered students to participate actively in creating their education.  At the time, there was a national movement for education reform, and colleges like Franconia were coming into existence. For me it was a complete delight after years of being frustrated with the rigid, tightly-controlled public school system I had attended on the South Shore of Long Island.  The first person in my family to attend college, I was fortunate to receive a hefty scholarship.  I was grateful for this opportunity and I plunged right in.

Franconia College From Main Street, Open in 1963

Franconia College From Main Street

That first semester presented me with many eye-opening experiences.  I met two women students—Gracia Woodward and Natalie Woodroofe—who were interested in starting a Women’s Studies course.  Women’s Studies was a very new discipline (the first-publicized course was taught at Cornell University in 1969).  Part of the thrill in launching this program was that students were coming together, deciding what we wanted to learn and how we wanted to learn it.  That was a quintessential Franconia activity.  Two extraordinary instructors, David Osher, History Department, and Nancy Walker, English Department, were our faculty sponsors.

The initial reading syllabus included many famous works—both fiction and non-fiction—highlighting the history of women.  But after a few weeks, we students rebelled and asked to have the opportunity to read books about women written by women.

One of the authors we read was Margaret Fuller, and the book we read was her seminal work, Woman in the Nineteenth Century.  The writing was typical of that era—somewhat dense, formal and full of references to classical writing, Greek mythology and scholarly thinking—but we were excited to read her own words.  That she was a feminist—and abolitionist—before the feminist movement took root, was a big part of her appeal.

During my years of studying social history at Franconia, I was repeatedly struck by the interconnection between the early women’s movement and the abolitionist movement.  White women of means stuck their necks out for the cause of abolition; black abolitionist men like Frederick Douglass stuck their necks out for the cause of women’s rights.

One of my favorite sections from Woman in the Nineteenth Century implores women to join the righteous cause of abolition and frames it as a highly personal, highly political act:

Women of my country … have you nothing to do with this? You see the men, how they are willing to sell shamelessly the happiness of countless generations of fellow-creatures, the honor of their country, and their immortal souls, for a money market and political power. Do you not feel within you that which can reprove them, which can check, which can convince them? You would not speak in vain; whether each in her own home, or banded in unison.

Tell these men that you will not accept the glittering baubles, spacious dwellings, and plentiful service they mean to offer you through those means. Tell them that the heart of Woman demands nobleness and honor in Man, and that, if they have not purity, have not mercy, they are no longer fathers, lovers, husbands, sons of yours.

This cause is your own, for, as I have before said, there is a reason why the foes of African Slavery seek more freedom for women; but put it not upon that ground, but on the ground of right.

Here’s to Margaret Fuller, and here’s to the exceptional opportunity I had many years ago, the daughter of working class parents, to not only get an education but to get one that was meaningful, powerful and radical and which helped inform my long political journey as an independent.  Can’t wait to join the dialogue with Megan Marshall on September 20th.

Caroline Donnola is the Executive Assistant to Jacqueline Salit, President of Independent Voting.
Caroline Donnola Franconia College

Caroline Donnola
Franconia College

Politics for the People Conference Call

With Megan Marshall

Sunday, September 20th at 7 pm EST


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Reaching Across Boundaries

Reader’s Forum

By Harry Kresky

I was predisposed against Megan Marshall’s Margaret Fuller.  I had never heard of either the author or the subject and did not think the biography of a New England woman who lived in the first half of the nineteenth century would be of much interest.

Harry Kresky

Harry Kresky

I was wrong.  Margaret Fuller’s life is the story of a woman’s struggle to achieve intellectual, emotional, and sexual fulfillment.  But it is not a book “for women.” Fuller’s concerns – the one-sidedness and constraints of marriage; the difficulty in building intimacy as friends, lovers, coworkers; the tension between self-fulfillment and responsibility to others; the treatment of the poor and the despised – are the concerns of every decent human being.  In speaking as a woman, and on behalf of women, Fuller and Marshall’s message is not an identity-based, sectarian one.  Like Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi and Pope Francis they express how the liberation of a particularly oppressed sector of humanity is inseparable from the development of us all.  Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Margaret Fuller lived her life like that and so can we.

Harry Kresky is counsel to IndependentVoting.org and one of the country’s leading experts on nonpartisan primary reform and the legal issues facing independent voters.


Politics for the People Conference Call

With Megan Marshall

Sunday, September 20th at 7 pm EST


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