Managing Rhetorical Roles: Elizabeth Hanford Dole from Spouse to Candidate 1996-1999

By Gutgold, Nichola | Women and Language, Spring 2001 | Go to article overview

Managing Rhetorical Roles: Elizabeth Hanford Dole from Spouse to Candidate 1996-1999


Gutgold, Nichola, Women and Language


Abstract: Elizabeth Hanford Dole has served in a variety of positions during her long and varied Washington career. She is, in addition to her roles as Secretary of Transportation under President Reagan and Secretary of Labor under President Bush, most known for a role for which she was unpaid-that is the role of the spouse of presidential candidate Bob Dole. In 1996 she gained considerable attention from the press and the public when, at the GOP convention she departed from the podium and walked among the delegates.

In January 1999, American Red Cross President Dole announced her resignation from the largest humanitarian organization in America to "consider new paths." (1) Indeed, later that year she made a bid for the presidency of the United States and withdrew in October, citing a lack of campaign funds as the reason. This paper amplifies Elizabeth Dole's rhetorical shifts as she moved away from being the spouse of presidential hopeful Bob Dole to stump for herself as a candidate for the presidency of the United States.

This Neo-Aristotelian and feminist analysis considers the most salient features of two speeches Mrs. Dole's 1996 Republican National Convention speech and a speech she gave in 1999 at Melrose High School as a candidate for president. These two speeches were chosen because each was both significant to Dole's career in different ways. In 1996 the spouses played a significant role in the presidential election and at Melrose High School in 1999 Dole was taking a stand on one of the two major themes of the 2000 election-gun control and education. I have interviewed Elizabeth Dole about her rhetorical strategies, using some of her comments in this analysis.

The Neo-Aristotelian method has been used because so little rhetorical work has been done on Dole that it offers a foundation or springboard for future studies of Dole's speech. Because there are two speeches included in this study, the Neo-Aristotelian method breaks down the components of each speech in a systematic way. I am able to reconstruct the contexts, analyze the artifacts and assess the impact of the artifacts on the audience with consideration for the various options of the rhetor. A feminist analysis has been applied to help the reader understand Dole's rhetorical management through a feminist lens. The feminist perspective will shape the analysis in an important way since as Foss, Foss and Griffin note, growth by revolution is an important aspect of feminist analysis (11). Specifically, I will ask what is the definition of feminism, nature of the rhetor, and what were Elizabeth Dole's rhetorical options? In the conclusion I will offer what transformations to rhetorical theory this study suggests .

Elizabeth Dole is a unique figure because she challenges the press and public to consider her in a variety of roles. It is important to consider how Dole presents herself and considering her speech makes a contribution to scholars who study women speakers and also to women seeking public office. She reminds us feminists come in many varieties. Moreover, 1999-2000 was a groundbreaking time in American politics because two prominent spouses--Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Dole--moved out of the spouse role and pursued their own political careers. Women's changing fortunes in electoral politics are driven by the correspondence between people's stereotypical images of women candidates and the salient issues of the day and this paper helps to illuminate how Dole transitioned from a spouse role to a candidate role (Kahn 1) Elizabeth Dole reminds us that feminists come in all shapes and sizes. Although never first lady, Elizabeth Dole campaigned as a potential first lady vigorously on and off throughout two decades in the role of the spouse of the candidate, while still maintaining her own high powered Washington career. Karlyn Kohrs Campbell states:

The wives of candidates challenge the public and press differently than do women candidates [or administrators]. …

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