Our Extraordinary History Spanning Two Centuries
Built in 1807 as the childhood home of Sarah Margaret Fuller, a noted author, feminist, and Transcendentalist, our house on Cherry Street was reinvented in 1902 as one of the first Settlement Houses in the United States.
It was the height of the industrial revolution in Cambridge at the time. Recent immigrants primarily staffed factories, and their living conditions in boarding and tenement houses were dire. Following the spirit of the Settlement House movement, Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House (MFNH) was designed as an outpost of education and culture for these workers and to ease class tensions.
Young women working 12-hour days came to the house for lunch. Volunteers and staff held meetings and socials, supplied women's food and clothing, organized day and rest trips for mothers, and helped women find employment. Some of Cambridge's first ESL classes took place at the MFNH; and the city's first "Baby Clinic" began there.
In the 1930s, boys learned woodworking at the MFNH, while mothers and young girls practiced sewing and cooking.
There were drama classes and community productions as well. In the 1940s, the house hosted a boxing ring, and in the 1950s and 1960s, teens from all over Cambridge came to Friday evening sock hops. In the early 1970s, the Black Panthers had a radio station on the third floor and sponsored Saturday morning father and son breakfasts in the basement.
The Margaret Fuller House was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1984. Throughout its history, it has always maintained the primary goals of a Settlement House: "To provide focus, education, recreation, and orientation for its surrounding community; to be the socializing vehicle whereby the middle class and working class could meet…"
Please stop by our home on Cherry Street any weekday for a "welcome to the neighborhood" or a "welcome home."
Remembering Margaret Fuller
Ralph Waldo Emerson expressed that
"Her conversations were the most entertaining in America…"
Sarah Margaret Fuller was born in our National Historic Landmark facility at 71 Cherry St. in Cambridge in 1810. She was an extraordinary author, editor, journalist, literary critic, educator, Transcendentalist, and women's rights advocate.
Today many consider Margaret Fuller one of the guiding lights of the first wave of feminism. She helped educate the women of her day by leading a series of conversations in which women were empowered to read, think, and discuss important issues. She inspired generations to come through her ground-breaking writings, especially her landmark book Woman in the Nineteenth Century.
Among her accomplishments:
Margaret was the first woman to enter Harvard Library to pursue research in the 1930s. In her relatively brief life, from her birth in 1810 to a Unitarian family in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to her death in a shipwreck in 1850, Margaret Fuller accomplished a staggering list of firsts and milestones. Her visionary ideas—on the need for social and personal transformation, rationalism and mysticism, intellectual freedom and religious pluralism, and democracy and human rights outside our borders—continue to resonate in the 21st century.
Upon her untimely death, Ralph Waldo Emerson expressed that "Her conversations were the most entertaining in America…" and that "I have lost in her my audience." Margaret Fuller was a brilliant, passionate, unconventional woman in the highly conventional Boston of the early 19th century.
A Letter from Our Executive Director
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
120 Years of Service to our community, quite amazing!
Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House (MFNH) is the 11th oldest Settlement House in the United States---compelling and relevant today, with an even brighter future.
As this organization's leader, I thank the outstanding Board of Directors, committed staff, dedicated volunteers and donors and the Cambridge community for its authentic support and caring about MFNH and the neighbors that we serve.
Since 1902, Margaret Fuller House has assisted the most vulnerable people of our community, spearheading the critical services to help many thousands of families, children, and seniors. The Margaret Fuller House is a community treasure that embodies an incredible mission in which people work together to build an equitable, diverse, engaged and flourishing community in Cambridge and the Greater Boston Community it serves.
These are challenging, difficult, and at times, overwhelming days for our neighbors. Every single day we experience what social and economic inequity really means for our neighbors: not enough food, unable to pay rent or utility bills, working long hours at lower wage jobs that don’t cover the cost of living in Cambridge and children anxious and stressed as they see their Moms struggle.
We are proud to be part of providing solutions to these challenges and invite you to join us.
Interim Executive Director
Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House, Inc.
Margaret Fuller House Board of Directors
Valerie A. Moore, Chair
Nutter McClennen & Fish LLP
Selvin L. Chambers, Vice Chair
Executive Director of LifeScene
Alan Schwartz, Treasurer
Retired, Former Product Manager
Meghana Iragavarapu, Clerk
Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Commissioner Christine Elow
Cambridge Police Department
Cheryl Watson Fisher
Galluccio and Watson, LLC
Cambridge Police Department
MIT Investment Management Company
Michele N. Scott
Cambridge Works, City of Cambridge
VP of Corporate Marketing & Communications BXP
Traci Swartz (Development Committee)
MIT-Community Relations Department
Rebecca Stoddard (Development Committee)
Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House staff pictured at our 120th Anniversary Gala in October, 2022
Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House Leadership
Director of Finance & Operations
Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House After School Program / Leaders of today Peace Academy