(1859-1947), leadership for woman suffrage and peace
DAVID S. BIRDSELL
Carrie Lane Chapman Catt's rhetorical career stretched from the late 1880s to shortly before her death in 1947. Though best known as president of NAWSA, first as SUSAN B. ANTHONY's successor, 1900-1904 and then from 1916 through ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, she was also an early advocate of international woman suffrage efforts and, after 1920, a prominent peace activist. A second-generation suffragist, she inherited a powerful rhetorical tradition but a small power base. By 1904, only four states had full woman suffrage. A pragmatist, she devoted herself as chair of NAWSA's National Organization Committee and as president to political organization, first of the various state campaigns and then, from 1916 on, of the national amendment struggle ( Fowler, 1986:105-154). Concern for organization also figured prominently in her peace work, for example, "What Shall We Do About War?" ( December 8, 1936), but here she used rhetorical means that differed notably from her efforts as a suffragist.
Lane Catt was an indefatigable speaker. For a dissertation on her oratorical career, Ima Fuchs Clevenger collected full or partial texts of 723 speeches from 185 speaking tours (61). Many other speeches were given but not recorded ( Peck, 1944; HWS 4:213). She also wrote extensively for the Woman's Journal, the Woman Citizen, and other publications. Sheer volume makes impractical a piece- by-piece review of her rhetoric. Instead, I present an overview of her rhetorical practice, followed by analysis of her suffrage speeches, emphasizing her arguments and style, with particular attention to matters that have received little stress in earlier studies. Finally, I analyze her peace rhetoric, emphasizing its sometimes radical departures from her earlier work.
Lane Catt understood speechmaking as an effective tool. She did not consider herself an expert speaker and rarely spoke to entertain ( Clevenger, 1955:61-62). When asked to describe herself as a speaker, she told a story from an 1895 tour through the South that she made with Susan B. Anthony. After one speech, Lane Catt was bitterly disappointed with her performance.
When we went to the place at which we were staying, I asked Miss Anthony if she ever felt that she had made so bad a speech that she never wanted to make another for that was the way I felt. She replied: "Why, I always feel that way." In a few moments she came to me and said: "After I thought about it a little, I concluded that poor speeches were better than no speeches at all, so I have gone right on." That was really the philosophy