Concord Days sends love to Margaret Fuller on the anniversary of her death in 1850.
The conversation focuses on Margaret’s exciting days in ITALY!
Dr. Rosanne Welch takes us through her adventures and enthusiastically reminds us what she was like when she was living her best life!
Tammy: I am very pleased to be able to welcome Dr Rosanne Welch who is the Executive Director of the Stephens College program for the MFA and who is an author on many topics in American History and American culture. Welcome, Rosanne.
Rosanne: Thank you so much for having me. I love to talk about these things as you know.
Tammy: Exactly. Exactly. So can we start with your how did you first discover Margaret Fuller.
Rosanne: I discovered her a roundabout way. I would say I first had her mentioned when I was in eighth grade in Ohio and we studied Ohio history which was abolitionists and really got into “We’re on the right side of the Civil War and John Brown was somebody very important to them because he’s from Ohio so very proud that he was anti-slavery and I started to learn about abolitionists and then you forget. You go to college. I was studying theater but I needed a class once — an elective — desperately to fill out my schedule and the only thing available was this transcendentalism class and I had completely forgotten anything I might have learned previously and I begged to get in the class and he let me in and there I found Margaret among all these other gentlemen and it was another one of those examples of “Wait it sounds like women never did anything until the modern-day but they always did they just got left out of the history books.”
His greatest accomplishment came after his greatest disappointment.
One of the founding fathers of the Renaissance, Filippo Brunelleschi was more than an Italian designer. Brunelleschi made his mark in architecture and construction.
In his early years, sculpting was Brunelleschi’s passion. But after being passed over for a major commission, he set his sights on architecture, and changed the landscape of Italy as it is known today.
Brunelleschi’s most prominent contribution, the dome of Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, was the first of its kind, paving the way for bigger and more elaborate domes to come. His invention of machines to facilitate the construction of the dome allowed future structures to not only be imagined, but to be erected as well.
With his imagination, understanding of linear perspective, focus on geometric principles, and intellect for mathematics, Brunelleschi influenced the rise of modern science and architecture worldwide.
“If only more men understood, as you do, the value of having women in their ranks. In the military, in politics, in all seats of power,” Manuela mused. She had dedicated the end of her life to the fight for women’s rights to property, position and safety from abuse.
“I can only imagine how far we might have gone if I could have made my Anita the true general she deserved to be,” Giuseppe said.
“It is too late for Anita,” Manuela said. “But not for her daughters. Or granddaughters. Or great granddaughters if you work toward such a goal with as much passion as you bring to the goal of unity.”
“Men from this area are sailing to San Francisco as fast as they can,” Carpanetto said to Giuseppe one day over dinner. “Captains who have managed to return here tell me whole ships lay in dock, stranded by crew who had no intention of serving on the return trip.”
“They merely signed on for their own free ride to the gold fields,” Giuseppe guessed. “Not very honorable.”
“No,” Carpanetto agreed. “But we will turn their dishonor into our opportunity. Whole ships are being sold for impossible discounts just to clear the docks for trading vessels.”
Over the next weeks many things became clearer to Giuseppe. Tensions were rising in the United States. Things like the 1850, Fugitive Slave Act passed Congress and provided for the return of slaves brought to free states, angering Northerner abolitionists while not completely placating the southern slaveholders. Giuseppe knew he would have to decide if he should use his talents to help preserve the union of these two factions, or find a way home, yet his exile seemed destined to keep him from home.
New York City in 1850 was a hodgepodge of some 700,000 peoples from all over the world. Giuseppe silently thanked Nicoletta every day for making him read the poems of Percy Shelley in English when he was a child for it made his transition easier. He watched so many other immigrants struggle with communicating in such a strange language. If anything, despite the accent he too carried, his command of language showed off his education, which helped some people accept him more easily than others of his countrymen.
So the children remained in safety with his mother as Giuseppe traveled the regions looking for a city that would allow him to settle, but most local governors feared his presence would escalate tensions with Austria. Or France. As Giuseppe traveled, he found himself taking Margaret Fuller’s advice and writing his memoirs. He had learned that newspapers from England to the United States were spreading his story far and wide and hoped a publisher would pay him for his own story.
“I am guilty of no crime save that of being an Italian like yourself,” Bassi said in his defense. “I have risked my life for Italy, and your duty is to do good to those who have suffered for her.” The Austrians convicted both men of bearing arms against the State, sentenced them to death and on August 8, 1849, executed Father Bassi and Count Livraghi by firing squad.
Giuseppe saw all this as he struggled to carry Anita, pregnant with their fifth child and sick from the malaria she had been trying to hide, to shore. Most of his remaining men scattered into the woods, on the run from the Austrians. One man, Leggero, stayed behind to help Giuseppe carry Anita and lay her in a cornfield out of sight. Then Leggero went in search of help.