Woman-Tempered Rhetoric: Public Presentation and the WCTU
[W]omen are growing too wise and strong to use either tears or tirade as weapons of defense.
-- Mary Torrans Lathrap, 1888 Presidential Address to
Michigan State WCTU
IN 1873, AFTER MORE than a decade of teaching young women, Frances E. Willard recognized the difficulties for women within educational institutions designed by and for men: "[T]o give ladies an 'equal chance' with gentlemen, means something more than to control a college wholly by men, arrange its surroundings solely for men, give the instruction entirely by men, and then, forsooth! open the doors alike to both sexes!" ( "A New Departure"158).
Willard, the first woman president of a woman's college and the first Dean of Women at Northwestern University, chose to leave institutionalized education because she became frustrated with what she perceived as demeaning treatment of her ideas and unjustified challenges to her authority. She and other leaders of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) proceeded to create their own network for teaching women outside the recognized establishments for education that they found to be uncongenial to women. Their creation became the largest and most effective organization for teaching women rhetorical skills in the nineteenth century.
Organizations such as the WCTU were essential to women's learning to take on public personas because the nineteenth century offered limited formal education in rhetoric for women. At coeducational institutions, for example, women might be admitted to classes but still be