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

By Karlyn Kohrs Campbell | Go to book overview
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their home" ( SP:255-256). Another committee chair admitted, "There is no man living who can answer the argument of those women, but I'd rather see my wife dead in her coffin than voting, and I'd die myself before I'd vote to submit that amendment!" ( Catt and Shuler, 1926:268). Small wonder that the Paola, Kansas, Miami Republican spoke of the "woman preacher, with the clear, keen, unanswerable logic" ( May 25, 1894). After listening to her at a committee hearing, a reporter remarked: "If this woman has not sufficient intelligence to vote, how many men have sufficient mental capacity?" (AHSP, Box 20). A reporter from the Topeka, Kansas, Daily Capital wrote: "If anything could convince a disbeliever in woman suffrage it would be the sight of a woman with such a remarkable intellect" ( May 11, 1894).

Although logical appeal was often bluntly rebuffed, as illustrated previously, men such as President Woodrow Wilson in the midst of a great war "to make the world safe for democracy" eventually found it awkward to uphold democratic principles while continuing to ignore woman's right to suffrage; the equal suffrage amendment was adopted in 1919 and ratified a year later as the Nineteenth Amendment. Shaw died on July 2, 1919. She lived to see the amendment passed, but she never voted in a national election.


During the forty years that Shaw spoke for suffrage, membership in the national association increased from 17,000 to more than 200,000. Many factors doubtless contributed to this rise. Nevertheless, she spoke more often for woman suffrage than anyone else, which was not lost on CARRIE LANE CHAPMAN CATT when she eulogized her:

There are no words with which to measure the part which Dr. Shaw played in this monumental victory. She was of the suffrage struggle its greatest orator, its wit, its humor, its deathless spirit. She staked her whole life on the cause, she conquered it, and death cannot rob her nor us of the victory that was so largely her work. ( New York Times, November 23, 1915)

In her own day, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer called Shaw "a living demonstration of the ability of her sex and the justice of her cause" (AHSP, Box 23, Folder 566, italics added). The Springfield Republican pointedly stated that Shaw "illustrated in her own person the truth which she preached" (AHSP, Box 23, Folder 566, 22; italics added). The Reverend Dr. Anna Howard Shaw clearly was a speaker who incarnated her argument; she was the proof of what she claimed. In her rhetoric and in her life she was the "new woman."


The Anna Howard Shaw Papers (AHSP), Dillon Collection, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College, Cambridge, Massachusetts, are the major primary source and contain


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