Emerson was an eloquent and untiring spokesman for intellectual freedom and self-determination. He contributed significantly to the emancipation of American thought and achieved international fame during his lifetime as the leader of the Transcendentalist movement. An avid champion of the abolitionist cause, Emerson consistently spoke out in favor of the oppressed and exploited.
In the case of women, however, his initial posture was quite traditional -- on the one hand, he exalted them and, on the other, required their submission. Eventually, Emerson emerged as a prominent advocate of women’s rights and became the Vice President of the New England Women’s Suffrage Union.
Despite these achievements Emerson remained the aloof intellectual, and this interfered with his personal relationships with women. Nevertheless, he fell deeply in love with the tubercular Ellen Tucker only to have her die 17 months after she became his bride. His second marriage was haunted by the memory of his first great love.
Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) --
ceremony are [women’s] realm. They embellish trifles.
The muse is
feminine. But action is male.
not be expected to write or fight or build or compose scores; she does all by
inspiring men to do all . she
is the requiring genius.
me . . . woman is . . . a docile daughter of God with her
face heavenward endeavoring to hear the divine word and convey it to me.
observe among the best women the same putting of life into their deed that we
admire . . . in the women in the old sieges
who cut off their hair to make ropes and ladders for the men.
[women] are poets who believe their own poetry.
are more delicate than men--delicate as iodine to light--and thus more
impressionable. They are the best index of the coming hour.
remarkable opinion or movement shared by women will be the first sign of
Man is the will, and woman the sentiment. In this ship of humanity, Will is the rudder and Sentiment the sail: when woman effects to steer, the rudder is a masked sail. -- Women, Lecture, September 20, 1855
have taken a leading part in every remarkable religious development in the
masculine woman is not strong, but a lady is.
the woman’s heart is prompted to desire, the man’s mind is simultaneously
prompted to accomplish.
the wafer [stamp] on letters, and the position of woman are good tests of a
does seem as if a vow of silence coupled with systematic lessons might teach
women the outline and new direction of the philosopher, but they give
themselves no leisure to hear. They are impatient to talk.
are really the heart and sanctuary of our civilization.
is curious that intellectual men should be most attractive to women. But women
are magnetic; intellectual men are unmagnetic: therefore as soon as they meet,
communication is found difficult or impossible.
suppose women feel in relation to men as geniuses feel among energetic workers,
that overlooked and thrust aside . . . they outsee all these noisy masters.
greatest debt to woman is of a musical character, and not describable.
women feel wronged, then they are wronged.