Women Public Speakers in the United States, 1800-1925: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook

By Karlyn Kohrs Campbell | Go to book overview

MARIA W. MILLER STEWART
(1803-1879), first African-American woman to lecture in public

LAURA R. SELLS

When scholars of rhetoric and history map women's emergence on the public platform, they mark abolitionism as a seedbed of women's public speaking. In general, early women abolitionists, especially the famous Grimké sisters, represent a vanguard that opened the public sphere to women speakers ( Hersh, 1979; Melder, 1977).

When Maria W. Miller Stewart addressed Boston's African-American abolitionist community between 1831 and 1833, six years prior to the Grimkés' acclaimed success, she became an important forerunner for many key abolitionists and woman's rights activists. She is considered "the first Black feminist- abolitionist in America" ( Andrews, 1986:22). She prefigures the major African- American activists of the nineteenth century, including Frederick Douglass, SOJOURNER TRUTH, Frances Harper, and Henry Highland Garnet. In an introduction to an edited collection of Miller Stewart's work, historian Marilyn Richardson writes: "In both the formulation and the articulation of the ideas central to the emerging struggle for Black freedom and human rights, Stewart was a clear forerunner to generations of the best known and most influential champions of Black activism" ( 1987:xiv; also Flexner, 1974:44; Giddings, 1985:46-55; Lerner, 1971:4). As the first U.S.-born woman and the first Black woman known to address mixed-sex and mixed-race audiences on political issues, she is a significant figure in the U. S. rhetorical tradition and in the history of women's oratory.

Miller Stewart was concerned primarily with reviving the waning spirit of militant activism among African-Americans in Boston ( Giddings, 1985:52). She encouraged her listeners to improve their oppressed condition by participating in abolition and moral reform movements. Although the exact composition of her audience is unknown, her discourse indicates she directed her message to the men and women of her own community. Her immediate audience was probably entirely African-American, predominantly laborers, and probably involved in "the politically dynamic" atmosphere of the Black abolitionist movement ( Lintin, 1989:3-5; Richardson, 1987:xvi).

Two events in Miller Stewart's life led her to the public sphere. After only three years of marriage, her husband died, leaving her an inheritance that was stolen from her by white lawyers. Soon thereafter, her political and intellectual mentor, David Walker, also died. Walker had been Boston's most militant Black abolitionist and was the author of the incendiary pamphlet "Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World." In her grief over these deaths, she experienced a conversion to evangelical Christianity, which proved central to her political ideology and her rhetorical style. She wrote that her fears of assuming a public role were tempered by her faith in God:

-339-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Women Public Speakers in the United States, 1800-1925: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
/ 512

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.