Women Public Speakers in the United States, 1925-1993: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook

By Karlyn Kohrs Campbell | Go to book overview

LEONORA O'REILLY

( 1870-1927), working woman orator

ANNE F. MATTINA

Leonora O'Reilly was born in 1870 on New York's Lower East Side and was celebrated in her day as an inspirational orator who embodied the cause of the working woman. She is most remembered for her career as an organizer and recruiter for the Women's Trade Union League (WTUL) from 1903 to 1915. While her work with the league is the most documented aspect of her public life, she was an active reformer both before and after her tenure with the WTUL. Her public speaking career appears to have begun in 1896, and it continued until shortly before her death in 1927.

Although O'Reilly died at the relatively young age of 57, her life and rhetoric spanned the progressive era. Her legacy is composed of her speeches and articles, many of which can be found in her papers. Although she may have toiled in factories, her life's work was labor reform, and her rhetorical legacy is worthy of analysis by those interested in women's progress and development in U.S. society.

Unlike many activists of her day, O'Reilly had personal knowledge of the need for reform, and in that fact lies the significance of her rhetoric. As has been routinely noted, most women who violate the sanctions regarding female public activism have done so from the safety of middle- and upper-class backgrounds. O'Reilly came from poverty.


BACKGROUND

O'Reilly's father died when she was a year old, leaving her mother, Winifred, solely responsible for the care of "Nora," as she was known. Her mother supported the small family through her work in a garment factory, as well as through "home work"--the system of parceling out garments to be finished at home. O'Reilly left school and went to work at age 11. By 1886 both she and

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Women Public Speakers in the United States, 1925-1993: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Copyright Acknowledgments v
  • Contents ix
  • Introduction xi
  • Ti-Grace Atkinson 1
  • Emily Greene Balch 25
  • Clare Boothe Luce 40
  • Rachel Louise Carson 72
  • Margaret Chase Smith 90
  • Mary Daly 120
  • Jessie Daniel Ames 134
  • Andrea Dworkin 175
  • Geraldine Ann Ferraro 190
  • Helen Gahagan Douglas (1900-1980), Member of Congress, Defender of Liberal Democratic Principles, Advocate for Women's Equity 207
  • Margaret Higgins Sanger 238
  • Helen Adams Keller (1880-1968), Advocate for the Blind, Socialist, and Feminist 254
  • Aimee Kennedy Semple Mcpherson 273
  • Catharine A. Mackinnon 287
  • Robin Evonne Morgan 306
  • Pauli Murray 319
  • Leonora O'Reilly 331
  • Frances Perkins 345
  • Charlotte Perkins Gilman 359
  • Anna Eleanor Roosevelt 379
  • Patricia Scott Schroeder 395
  • Phyllis Stewart Schlafly 409
  • Fannie Lou Townsend Hamer 424
  • Alyce Faye Wattleton 436
  • Ann Willis Richards 452
  • Martha Wright Griffiths 465
  • Index 477
  • About the Contributors 489
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