Transcendentalism and the Feminist Movement

Transcendentalism was a literary movement of the 1830s that valued individuals, idealism, truth and self reliance. Margaret Fuller, a protegee of Ralph Waldo Emerson and editor of the Transcendentalist journal The Dial, was one of the movement's key members. Her Conversations (public lectures by educated women in Boston) and reinterpretation of Emerson's "Self-Reliance" provided an important forum for discussing feminism.


Most Western cultures put a high value on self-reliance. This is because they believe that people are better off on their own and that relying on others can lead to a lack of individuality.

The concept of self-reliance was an important aspect of transcendentalism. This movement was a 19th-century school of thought that combined aspects of Unitarianism and German Romanticism. It was founded by Ralph Waldo Emerson and influenced other famous authors like Henry Thoreau and Walt Whitman.

This group believed that each person is pure and that human society corrupts this purity. They also valued individualism and a connection to nature.

One of the most famous essays by a Transcendentalist is “Self-Reliance.” In this essay, Emerson explains how people should practice self-reliance by embracing non-conformity, focusing on solitude over society and valuing spirituality over logic. While this can be affirming and uplifting, it can also breed a sense of isolation and chilly arrogance. Nonetheless, this philosophy was the foundation of the Transcendentalist movement.


Transcendentalists embraced the concept of individualism, a belief that all humans are equal. They believed that people have an innate connection with God and can gain wisdom through the ebb and flow of nature.

They also believed that human beings should spend time contemplating beauty. One of their favorite practices was listening to the birds and observing the ebb and flow of nature. They hoped that this would allow them to connect with God in a way that was unique and personal.

The most important aspect of transcendentalism was its emphasis on self-reliance. They thought that society and institutions corrupted the purity of the individual. They wanted to be free of these constraints and to live life in its fullest. They were pioneers of experimental schemes for living (Thoreau at Walden Pond, Alcott at Fruitlands, Ripley at Brook Farm) and of social reform (civil disobedience, women’s rights, and educational innovation). Margaret Fuller’s essay, Woman in the Nineteenth Century, is considered one of the earliest feminist works in America.


Many people think of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau when they hear the word transcendentalism, but there were women who played key roles in the movement. Margaret Fuller, for example, wrote essays that helped spread transcendentalism’s ideas to a broader audience and cofounded the influential journal The Dial with Emerson. She also encouraged young girls to develop their intellectual potential and supported the founding of utopian communities like Brook Farm.

Many members of the Transcendentalist community viewed nature as sacred, and they believed that humans must respect its beauty. However, some of them eschewed the bonds of community, and this led to problems. Herman Melville’s novel Moby Dick serves as an example, with the character Ahab ignoring almost all bonds of camaraderie and focusing solely on his goal of killing the whale.

Margaret Fuller believed that transcendentalism could be more inclusive, and she reinterpreted its language to help promote the emerging feminist movement. She argued that all individuals, regardless of sex or social standing, had the right to pure selfculture and a vocation suited to their strengths.


One of the most controversial aspects of transcendentalism was its stance on women’s rights. Margaret Fuller was an active member of the movement and wrote an essay called Woman in the Nineteenth Century that helped to define many of the stereotypes associated with modern feminism.

She also believed that men and women should be equal. She criticized the way that other transcendentalists, such as Emerson, focused too much on individualism. Her article was meant to convince people that women could not be ignored as mere objects.

Ednah Dow Cheney was a female Transcendentalist who took the ideas of Fuller and applied them to social reform. Her work and the Conversations she attended at Brook Farm pushed the boundaries of gender roles and influenced the feminist movement.

Thoreau’s poem Walden Pond is another example of the concept of equality in Transcendentalism. In it, he compares the joys of reading Shakespeare and Homer to the pleasures of nature. He emphasizes that knowledge gained from experience is more valuable than that obtained through books.