Women Public Speakers in the United States, 1800-1925: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook

By Karlyn Kohrs Campbell | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

Karlyn Kohrs Campbell

From the nation's beginnings, strenuous efforts have been made to silence U.S. women. Barred from politics by a denial of their citizenship rights; barred from the courts by a lack of standing to sue, bear witness, or make contracts; barred from advanced education and the professions, their voices inevitably were constrained. Yet they spoke. This volume covering the years from 1800 to 1925, and its companion covering the years after 1925, are offered to gain those voices new recognition. They are dedicated to the woman who began the contemporary study of women's rhetoric, Lillian O'Connor.

Women ventured into the public dialogue far earlier than is generally recognized. In 1787, at the initial commencement of the Philadelphia Female Academy, probably the first secondary school for young women in the nation ( Woody, 1929, 1:333, 337), the salutatorian, a Miss Mason, welcomed parents and guests with a speech defending a woman's right to use her talents and to contribute to the public dialogue ( Mason, 1887; Woody, 1929, 1:338-339). In 1802 DEBORAH SAMPSON GANNETT (names of women for whom there are entries are in all capitals), who had fought bravely in the Revolutionary War, lectured in Massachusetts to attest to her military record as well as to explain her unwomanly behavior. In 1819 EMMA HART WILLARD pleaded with the New York State Legislature to endow Troy Female Seminary. In 1828 Frances Wright, an American by choice and belief, lectured throughout the nation explaining the meaning and implications of the country's basic principles. In a memorable Fourth of July address, she urged its citizens to a higher patriotism that would encompass the world, not just the nation ( 1972:117-125). In 1831 MARIA W. MILLER STEWART spoke in Boston urging fellow African-Americans to help themselves, castigating colonization proposals, and affirming the citizenship rights of those who in slavery and in freedom had contributed so much to creating

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