12th Annual Sweet Soul Supper

This post was written by Margaret Fuller Society member and contributing author Michael Schrimper, who also provided the photos from the event.

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MIT’s Morss Hall, decorated for the event

On the evening of Thursday, June 15, the President of the Margaret Fuller Society, Phyllis Cole, was joined by three society members, Leslie Eckel, Megan Marshall, and Michael Schrimper, for the Twelfth Annual Sweet Soul Supper, held to benefit the Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House of Cambridge. The event took place at MIT’s Morss Hall, featured live music, a silent auction, and a buffet.

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Phyllis Cole introduces Ellen Semonoff, winner of the Inaugural Margaret Fuller Women’s Leadership Award. Since the evening was packed with awards and speeches, Cole shared only one Margaret Fuller quote with the audience during her introduction, “If you ask me what offices [women] may fill, I reply–any….Let them be sea-captains, if you will.” Cole then pointed out that Ellen Semonoff hasn’t been a sea-captain, but instead a leader in responding to the needs of others–a vocation in fact closer to Margaret Fuller’s heart.
Halfway through the event, Phyllis Cole presented Ellen Semonoff with the Inaugural Margaret Fuller Women’s Leadership Award, for Semonoff’s lifelong contributions to the public. Semonoff has been Cambridge’s Assistant City Manager for Human Services; she leads a staff of 600 in providing child care, family support, youth programs, workforce development, adult basic education, recreation, fuel and nutrition assistance, homeless programs, and services to the elderly and disabled. She started her career as a lawyer in Washington, working as an assistant to Joseph Califano in Heath, Education, and Welfare and a clerk to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Semonoff was selected by the Margaret Fuller House for her contributions, and the House asked Cole to present the award in honor of Fuller, whose advocacy of women’s leadership they were also recognizing. Following Cole’s introduction, Semonoff received a standing ovation from the whole house.

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From left to right: Leslie Eckel, Michael Schrimper, Phyllis Cole, and Megan Marshall smile for a photo after enjoying a buffet of soul food. Dishes served include stuffed chicken breasts, roast beef, macaroni and cheese, and fried plantains. The silent auction featured a chance to bid on ice-cream-making sessions at a popular Cambridge ice cream shop and a session with a personal trainer at a Cambridge fitness center, among other items.

Michael Schrimper teaches in the Writing, Literature & Publishing department at Emerson College in Boston.

Margaret Fuller Society Celebrates 25 Years

IMG_20170527_162010“I remembered how, a little child, I had stopped myself one day on the stairs, and asked, how came I here? How is it that I seem to be this Margaret Fuller? What does it mean? What shall I do about it?” — Margaret Fuller

In celebration of the society’s 25th Anniversary, society members gathered at the Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House on Saturday, May 27. Margaret Fuller Society President Phyllis Cole began our meeting up the stairs in the Margaret Fuller House reading attendees this quotation from Fuller’s reflections on her childhood. Members who gathered in Boston for the American Literature Association 2017 annual conference traveled by bus to Fuller’s birth home, now a community center, on 71 Cherry Street in Cambridge, MA. We climbed the those same stairs that Fuller herself had stopped on many years ago, and celebrated the life and work of Margaret Fuller as well as the tremendous community support the Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House provides today.

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The Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House (MFNH) offers emergency food services to 16,000 unique individuals each year. Serving approximately 300 people a day, the work of 25 volunteers each morning is invaluable to the local Port community. The House also provides nurturing and educational child and teen programs in partnership with local schools to foster the social and emotional development of youth in need. It was delightful to hear the voices of children playing outside and in the house throughout the afternoon we spent with Christina Alexis, the Executive Director on the left in the photo above.

IMG_20170527_162620The MFNH has a community advancement program that works to build community and provide education, resources, and information to help lift individuals out of poverty and become successful and self-sustaining. Using their Margaret Fuller Method, a holistic model made up of four interconnected pillars, their mission is to strengthen and empower individuals of all ages and to address the economic, social, and political inequities that shape the lives and futures of Port residents. Make a donation.

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ALA 2017 Conference & the 25th Anniversary of the Society

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Yoshiko Ito presents at ALA 2017

We gathered in Boston, MA for the American Literature Association 2017 conference May 25-28, where the Margaret Fuller Society organized two panels and celebrated its 25th Anniversary. On Thursday, Wesley Mott presented “‘Testifying of that Unseen World within’: ‘The Dial’ and Transcendentalist Music Criticism” on a “Musical Intelligence in Antebellum Boston” panel.

On Friday, the first of the Fuller Society panels, “Presenting Margaret Fuller I: Touring, Film, and Digital Humanities,” was chaired by First Vice President Charlene Avallone. Reverend Jenny Rankin discussed her walks “On the Road in Fuller’s Footsteps” in Italy. Fuller Society Board Member Sonia Di Loreto, with William Bond and Sarah Payne, presented their Digital Humanities project and incredibly useful teaching tool, The Margaret Fuller Transnational Archive, which you can read more about here. Finally, Jonathan Schwartz presented a preview of a documentary film on Margaret Fuller. Many members who participated in the film making were present. Fuller Society President Phyllis Cole moderated a Ralph Waldo Emerson Society panel in the afternoon called “Beautiful Foes: A Roundtable Discussion of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Affiliations with Women,” on which Sarah Ann Wider, Kate Culkin, Fuller Society Treasurer Noelle Baker, Christopher Hanlon, and Andrea Knutson presented.

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Phyllis Cole addresses Fuller Society members at the Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House

On Saturday, the day began early with the second Fuller Society panel, “Presenting Margaret Fuller II: Writing Activism,” chaired by Charlene Avallone. Yoshiko Ito began the presentations talking about her work teaching Fuller in Japan in her paper, “Rhetorical Strategies of Margaret Fuller and Hiratsuka Raicho.” Then Katie Kornacki presented on Fuller as satirist in “Margaret Fuller’s New York Journalism: Anti-Capital Punishment Reform, Evolution, and the Role of the Public Intellectual.” Finally, Christina Katopodis concluded the panel with her paper arguing for Fuller as a forerunner of William James in her paper “Margaret Fuller’s Early Feminist Pragmatic Method.” Full abstracts are available in Past ALA Convention Paper Titles in the society archives.

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To celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Margaret Fuller Society, after a successful business meeting Fuller Society members visited the Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House for refreshments, cake, and a tour of the community center, through the child care rooms, food services kitchen, and the shady playground outside. You can read more about the House and our visit here and make a donation to the house on their website. The community center is a symbol of love in Cambridge. You can read more about what volunteers do here. The day concluded with the American Literature Association 2017 conference reception.

 

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Christina Alexis, Executive Director of MFNH with Charlene Avallone

Thank you to all the members who made these thought-provoking panels, visit to the Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House, and overall wonderful weekend possible!