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Women's Speeches for Rhetorical Analysis

An August 2002 query on WMST-L about women's speeches that could be used
in an assignment involving the rhetorical analysis of a persuasive text
elicited the responses in this file.  For additional WMST-L files now
available on the Web, see the WMST-L File Collection.  
Date: Sun, 11 Aug 2002 15:23:09 -0500
From: Shelley Reid <esreid AT COX.NET>
Subject: request: women's speeches
For one assignment this semester, I'll be asking my first-year
composition students to provide a rhetorical analysis of a persuasive
text; I've discovered that when they work on a text that was initially a
speech delivered to a group, they find it easier to conceptualize the
complexities.  Our textbook has speeches by Frederick Douglass, Susan B.
Anthony, Luther Standing Bear, FDR, & JFK.  Some of these have worked
better than others; I think students engage with the analysis more fully
when the speaker is passionately "going out on a limb" -- proposing
something important to the speaker that is likely to make a significant
part of the audience uneasy or even upset.

I'd like to add another speech or two from later in the 20th century,
and/or another speech or two by a woman.  For another class, I've been
working through Joy Ritchie & Kate Ronald's _Available Means: An
Anthology of Women's Rhetorics_, which is an outstanding collection --
but the more recent selections are more reflective than declamatory,
more likely to have been written & published than spoken.  It would be
nice, too, to find something other than an election/nomination/general
politics speech.  I would be grateful for any suggestions.



 E. Shelley Reid
 Assoc. Director of Composition
 English Department
 Oklahoma State University
 Stillwater, OK  74078

 esreid  AT  okstate.edu
 esreid  AT  cox.net
Date: Sun, 11 Aug 2002 18:19:04 -0400
From: Ann Simonds <a.simonds AT UTORONTO.CA>
Subject: Re: request: women's speeches
At 03:23 PM 8/11/02 -0500, Shelley Reid wrote:
>I'd like to add another speech or two from later in the 20th century,
>and/or another speech or two by a woman.

I would suggest Bernice Johnson Reagon, "Coalition Politics: Turning the
Century" in _Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology_. Barbara
Smith, ed. New York: Kitchen Table/ Women of Color Press, 1983. pp.
356-368. It's a strong, strong piece and should give students a lot to chew on.

Date: Sun, 11 Aug 2002 17:50:27 -0400
From: Deborah Louis <louis AT UMBC.EDU>
Subject: Re: request: women's speeches
for 19th century, sojourner truth's "ain't i a woman" speech (1851) is
ideal for this kind of analysis/conversation--for 20th century, margaret
chase smith's "declaration of conscience"  (denunciation of mccarthy,
1950) fits your parameters nicely--as does doris "granny d" haddock's
commencement speech at Franklin Pierce College in New Hampshire  in may
2000 (i still give copies to all my graduating students)...

debbie <louis  AT  umbc.edu>
Date: Sun, 11 Aug 2002 20:35:41 -0400
From: Holly Mitchell <hol31 AT UMIT.MAINE.EDU>
Subject: Re: request: women's speeches
Granny D's Franklin Pierce 2000 commencement speech is available online~







Holly  (U/Maine)

hol31  AT  umit.maine.edu

Maine Women Online:

Date: Sun, 11 Aug 2002 20:54:10 -0400
From: Tess Pierce <tess AT ETRESOFT.COM>
Subject: Re: request: women's speeches
In my public speaking courses I have my students evaluate speeches also. One
good speech is Elizabeth Glaser's speech to the Democratic National
Convention on July 14 1992. (Transcript avail at:
<http://www.undelete.org/library/library011.html>. The video is part of
Great American Speeches which many school libraries carry. I like this
speech because she argues for AIDS research early in the AIDS "fight." I
also like it because the transcript is available online.  I find that if my
students see the speech first then have the transcript to read for their
evaluations they do a better job at their analyses.

Another exercise I have done is have the students evaluate a speech they
find online. You could adapt this to be speeches of the 20th century by
women. Some speeches online are available in both written form and video
forms. I do not specify that they both see and hear the speech although both
is preferred - some students do not have access to video on their computers.
In this exercise I tell them I do not want "easy" speeches to find. For
example I disallow anything by JFK, The Gettysburg address, etc. The
students like this exercise because they get to select speeches from
controversial people and on controversial topics. I rarely get a student who
goes for the easy speech. Examples they have selected include Emma Goldman,
Angela Davis, Ghandi, Judi Bari, Hitler, Ronald Reagan (as governor), Dave
Foreman (from Earth First), and Jessi Ventura.
Hope this helps.

Tess Pierce
kick ass liberal curmudgeon
tess  AT  etresoft.com
Date: Mon, 12 Aug 2002 12:30:35 -0500
From: Susan Roberson <slroberson AT MINDSPRING.COM>
Subject: Re: request: women's speeches
I've been looking at Maria Stewart's speeches (1832)--she was a free black
woman in Boston who gave a handful of abolitionist, women's rights speeches.

Susan Roberson
Date: Mon, 12 Aug 2002 13:09:23 -0500
From: "Deleene S. Menefee" <Deleene.Menefee AT MAIL.UH.EDU>
Subject: Re: request: women's speeches
        I would like to recommend Elizabeth Cady Stanton's speech to Congress
(1892) entitled, "Solitude of Self."  Stanton was requesting that women be
given equal education so that they could be captain's of their own
destinies.  Stanton was definitely out on a limb with this speech given the
times.   Full document found at

A really good PBS streaming video is available that would also lend to the
times of the speech - http://www.pbs.org/stantonanthony/

        Excerpt -

        "Just so with woman. The education that will fit her to discharge the
duties in the largest sphere of human usefulness will best fit her for
whatever special work she may be compelled to do.

The isolation of every human soul and the necessity of self-dependence must
give each individual the right to choose his own surroundings. The strongest
reason for giving woman all the opportunities for higher education, for the
full development of her faculties, forces of mind and body; for giving her
the most enlarged freedom of thought and action; a complete emancipation
from all forms of bondage, of custom, dependence, superstition; from all the
crippling influences of fear, is the solitude and personal responsibility of
her own individual life. The strongest reason why we ask for woman a voice
in the government under which she lives; in the religion she is asked to
believe; equality in social life, where she is the chief factor; a place in
the trades and professions, where she may earn her bread, is because of her
birthright to self-sovereignty; because, as an individual, she must rely on
herself. No matter how much women prefer to lean, to be protected and
supported, nor how much men desire to have them do so, they must make the
voyage of life alone, and for safety in an emergency they must know
something of the laws of navigation. To guide our own craft, we must be
captain, pilot, engineer; with chart and compass to stand at the wheel; to
match the wind and waves and know when to take in the sail, and to read the
signs in the firmament over all. It matters not whether the solitary voyager
is man or woman.
I find this speech to be one of strength, unshakeable logic, and very
inspiring to me as a woman and a citizen. "

Best of luck,

Deleene S. Menefee
University of Houston
Date: Mon, 12 Aug 2002 16:41:19 -0700
From: Eileen Zurbriggen <zurbrigg AT cats.ucsc.edu>
Subject: Re: request: women's speeches
Dear Shelley,

Although not a speech by a woman, the recent commencement speech
by playwright Tony Kushner (Angels in America) is wildly inspirational
(at least for us bleeding heart liberals!) and perhaps would be suitable
for your pedagogical purposes.  He delivered it at Vassar College on
May 26, 2002, and it was reprinted in the July 1, 2002 edition of
The Nation.  It is available on-line at:


As far as I know, there is no video version (sadly! I can only
imagine how much better it would be with the appropriate

Eileen L. Zurbriggen, Ph.D.         Phone: 831-459-5736
Dept. of Psychology                 Fax:   831-459-3519
277 Social Sciences 2               Email: zurbrigg  AT  cats.ucsc.edu
Santa Cruz, CA  95064  U.S.A.

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