"She might, in one of her phases, have been a prophetess"
Daguerreotype of Margaret Fuller (1846)
Public DomainDaguerreotype of Margaret Fuller (1846) - Credit: John Plumbe

Is Hawthorne here thinking of his friend, Margaret Fuller? The prominent and highly intelligent women’s rights activist, whose Woman in the Nineteenth Century (1845) garnered her the title of America’s first major feminist, was frequently referred to as a “prophetess” by her contemporaries. In looking towards a future when women would achieve equality with men through intellectual and spiritual advancement, the reclamation of their self-reliance and the retraction of male dominance, Fuller herself invokes a prophetess: “And will she not soon appear? The woman who shall vindicate their birthright for all women; who shall teach them what to claim, and how to use what they obtain?” (p. 168). Such parallels, together with the fact that she had recently caused a great scandal by giving birth to an illegitimate child, have caused many critics to speculate that Hawthorne drew on Margaret Fuller for his portrayal of Hester.