( 1939- ), radical feminist theoretician and speaker
MICHELE M. ZURAKOWSKI
During the early years of the second wave of feminism, Ti-Grace Atkinson was a major contributor to a cogent feminist theory combining elements of class analysis and lesbian-feminism. In addition to being one of the movement's leading theoreticians, Atkinson was a prolific speaker both to general and to movement audiences. Her influence within the movement, however, was relatively short-lived. This chapter begins with an overview of Atkinson's rhetorical career, identifying the major components of her theory of feminism. This overview is followed by a description of her major rhetorical strategies indicating how the rhetoric in which her theory was framed contributed to its original impact and its eventual demise.
Ti-Grace Atkinson was born in Louisiana in 1939 into an old, southern, upperclass family. Named for her maternal grandmother (Ti in Creole means little or namesake), she claims she inherited that same grandmother's "wild spirit" as well as name ( Atkinson, 1974:ccxxxiii). She did not live all her youth in the South, however; her father's connections with the oil industry moved the family around the world ( Cudlipp, 1971:143).
At age 17, "in an hysterical state of ennui," Atkinson was married ( Atkinson, 1974:26). Her parents blessed the union, hoping it would calm their daughter's rebellious spirit ( Lear, 1968:56). Her husband was a graduate student, and she went to live with him on campus. Of those years, she recalls, "I went to little tea parties given by faculty wives and sat there feeling that life was over" ( Lear, 1968:56). Her unhappiness was not caused by her husband; rather, she was disturbed by a feeling that she had closed the door on her life. At the time, however, she had felt there was no acceptable alternative to marriage; good girls married, bad girls became prostitutes.