Writing the Republic: *First* First Ladies



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While much has been written about our nation’s first First Ladies, not much attention has been paid to the rhetoric of these women. As the New Republic worked to build and create a democracy, Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, and Dolley Madison had the treacherous task of navigating a new role, that of the First Lady. Each of these women has left behind a sizeable collection of letters, and it is these letters that create the discourse analysis I have conducted. To analyze the many writing of these ladies, I use Kenneth Burke’s cluster analysis method to conduct the analysis and answer the question, “Did our First Ladies have a uniquely American rhetoric?” Because this analysis is conducted with a feminist lens, using Burke’s cluster analysis requires feminists to recast him for a feminist audience.



Rhetoric, First Lady, Kenneth Burke, Cluster analysis, Feminists, Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Dolley Madison