Appropriate[Ing] Dress: Women's Rhetorical Style in Nineteenth-Century America

Appropriate[Ing] Dress: Women's Rhetorical Style in Nineteenth-Century America

Appropriate[Ing] Dress: Women's Rhetorical Style in Nineteenth-Century America

Appropriate[Ing] Dress: Women's Rhetorical Style in Nineteenth-Century America

Synopsis

Mattingly examines the importance of dress and appearance for 19th-century women speakers and explores how women appropriated gendered conceptions of dress and apppearance to define the struggle for representation and power that is rhetoric.

Excerpt

As nineteenth-century women began to challenge restrictions against their public presence, the primary features that reflected their gendered positioning came into bold relief. Women were identified as feminine primarily according to the visual presentation of their bodies, especially with regard to dress, and according to location, a specifically assigned sphere. These complementary perceptions served to make women's assumption of public platforms and roles especially difficult. With specific attention to rhetoric, Appropriate[ing] Dress: Women's Rhetorical Style in Nineteenth-Century America examines the balancing of these intersections of location and “feminine” style. It explores ways in which women speakers used appearance to negotiate expectations restricting them to limited locations and excluding them from public rhetoric in order to challenge and reconstruct the power hierarchy.

The introduction, “Fabricated Gender, ” provides a historical context of the relation between gender and dress and situates the study within recent scholarship in the history of women and rhetoric. Chapter 1, “Friendly Dress: A Disciplined Use, ” explores early-nineteenth-century women speakers' appropriation of religious associations inherent in Quaker dress for establishing moral character as a means for furthering their ethical effectiveness. The Quaker religion contributed to women's preparation for public presentation, both mentally and rhetorically; at the same time, many women recognized the rhetorical importance of a style of dress that evoked moral and religious images. This chapter examines early-nineteenth-century women speakers' use of dress in their attempts to achieve rhetorical effectiveness, from the problematic efforts of Frances Wright to the more successful strategies of Angelina and Sarah Grimké and Abby Kelley Foster.

By the 1850s, curiosity associated with radical clothing provided a means by which some women drew large crowds to hear their messages and to . . .

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