A Night Out at The Gables by Rae Francoeur

June 29, 2015 Published by Ryan Conary

One of the highlights of Salem’s many cultural offerings is The House of the Seven Gables’ ‘Seven Lectures for Seven Gables’ annual series. For many Salem and North Shore residents, the lecture series is a favorite tradition.

Members are admitted free. If you’re not a member, the $7 admission fee includes the speaker’s presentation, questions and discussion, and, if the speaker has published a book on the topic, you can ask the author to autograph a copy of the book. If you’re coming before dinner — the lectures run from 6 to 7 or 7:30 p.m. — help yourself to tasty refreshments.

The talk on June 17th was well attended and well received. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Megan Marshall was the guest author, and she drew some surprising parallels between The House of the Seven Gables and Margaret Fuller (1810 to 1850), whom she featured in her biography, “Margaret Fuller: A New American Life.”

Fuller was a well-known transcendentalist who lived courageously and died young in a tragic shipwreck, along with her new husband and young boy. Fuller was the author of several books, a social activist, friend to many of the prominent thinkers of her era including Ralph Waldo Emerson, advocate of women’s rights, an editor of The Dial and a popular journalist with the New York Tribune. She was also a war correspondent.

Executive Director of The House of the Seven Gables, Kara McLaughlin, spoke at last Wednesday’s event about Margaret Fuller’s groundbreaking series of informational conversations with and for women. These conversations sometimes explored questions about a woman’s status and her roles in society. McLaughlin said that today the Gables also hosts a set of conversations meant to challenge stereotypes, this time about immigrants living and working regionally. That lecture series is titled “Immigration Conversations” and the next one is this Wednesday when Denzil Mohammed speaks about “Immigrants as Assets.”

After Kara McLaughlin’s welcome, Senior Tour Guide David Moffat introduced Megan Marshall, after which she began her discussion. She leaned forward on the lectern and shared fascinating details of Margaret Fuller’s life.

She spoke of another notable parallel Margaret Fuller between The House of the Seven Gables and Fuller. Fuller was born in Cambridge, Mass., at a Settlement House with very much the same mission that The House of the Seven Gable’s settlement mission had at the time — to support the local immigrant population with education, food, child care and language skills.

Megan Marshall’s first award-winning book, “The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism,” featured Elizabeth, Mary and Sophia Peabody of Boston. As many here know, Sophia married Nathaniel Hawthorne and lived with him in Salem. “Margaret Fuller brought me to the Peabody Sisters and the Peabody Sisters brought me back to Margaret Fuller,” said the author, noting the way her subjects intertwined.

The next presentation in Seven Lectures at Seven Gables is a family event presented by Gables’ tour guide Michael W. Judd and his wife Elizabeth. Please join us for an evening of storytelling taken from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short stories for children.

This post was written by Ryan Conary