Influences of nineteenth century women's speeches on forming early feminist ideology: A rhetoric of social intervention approach



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“Womanhood is the greatest fact of her life,” writes Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Matilda Gage in the History of Suffrage: 1848-1860. The ideological concept of “womanhood” is a central theme of “first-wave” feminist rhetoric and the Woman’s Rights Movement of the nineteenth century in America. This dissertation explores how Christian feminists influenced the rhetorical construction of “womanhood” and formative aspects of feminist ideology through their oratory. The way in which this study explores how women’s rhetoric contributed to concepts of “womanhood” and feminist ideology is through the analysis of seven speeches and sermons not previous studied by other scholars through the theoretical and analytical framework called the Rhetoric of Social Intervention model. The analysis of rhetorical interventions in the speech artifacts demonstrated how Christian feminists separated religious influence from social and political perspectives on women and womanhood, perceived how changes in society based on egalitarianism would impact women’s social roles and relationship with men, and contributed to modern discourse about needs and identity. The implications of this study include challenging scholarship on simplified perspectives of the “first-wave” feminist movement, synthesizing feminist ideology into an entire ideological framework, and provide more insight into understandings of how women shape rhetorical discourse.



Feminist rhetoric; religious rhetoric; nineteenth century rhetoric