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

By Karlyn Kohrs Campbell | Go to book overview

constraints of her situation. While her rhetoric is similar to that of many nineteenth-century Black male rhetoricians ( Moses, 1961:161), it is noteworthy because of the strategies she used to overcome the contradictions of a woman engaged in public speaking and writing. Her rhetoric demonstrates the ways in which Black women activists shared with their white counterparts the difficulties of True Womanhood. Yet her discourse also illustrates the important differences in the meaning of True Womanhood for Black women. While she did not singlehandedly break the barrier of separate spheres for women, she was part of a vanguard of women speakers who challenged prescribed gender roles. She helped inaugurate a new role for U.S. women--that of speaker. And she pioneered that role with the deference of a true woman and with a militancy quite unlike the feminine style of many women speakers who followed her:

For he hath clothed my face with steel, and lined my forehead with brass. He hath put his testimony within me, and engraven his seal upon my forehead. And with these weapons I have indeed set the fiends of earth and hell at defiance. ( FA:75)


SOURCES

Original texts of Miller Stewart's works are found in:

Religion and the Pure Principles of Morality, The Sure Foundation on Which We Must Build. Productions from the Pen Of Mrs. Maria W. Steward [sic], Widow of the Late James W. Steward, of Boston. Boston: Garrison & Knapp, 1831. Boston Public Library; Howard University Library; SUNY, Brockport.

Meditations from the Pen of Mrs. Maria W. Stewart. Boston: Garrison & Knapp, 1832. Boston Public Library; Boston Athenaeum.

Productions of Mrs. Maria W. Stewart, Presented to the First African Baptist Church & Society, of the City of Boston. Boston: Published By Friends of Freedom and Virtue, 1835. Howard University Library; New York Historical Society Library; New York Public Library Schomburg Collection; Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland.

Meditations from the Pen of Mrs. Maria W. Stewart. Washington, D.C.: n.p., 1879. Indiana University, loomington; Library of Congress.
Selections from these works are reprinted in:

Bormann Ernest G. Forerunners of Black Power: The Rhetoric of Abolition. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1971. ( FBP)

Spiritual Narratives. Ed. Henry Louis Gates Jr. Intro. Sue E. Houchins. Schomburg Library of Nineteenth-Century Black Women Writers. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988. ( SN)

Black Women in Nineteenth-Century American Life: Their Words, Their Thoughts, Their Feelings. Ed. and intro. Bert J. Loewenberg and Ruth Bogin. University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1976. ( BW)

Early Negro Writing: 1760-1837. Ed. Dorothy Porter. Boston: Beacon Press, 1971. ( ENW)

Maria W. Stewart, America's First Black Woman Political Writer: Essays and Speeches.

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