A Voice of Their Own: The Woman Suffrage Press, 1840-1910

By Martha M. Solomon | Go to book overview

9
The Farmer's Wife, 1891-1894 Raising a Prairie Consciousness

Thomas R. Burkholder

"Equal Rights to All, Special Privilege to None"

"For 52 years," writes Lynne Masel-Walters, "the suffrage press served as mirror and molder of the feminist struggle. . . . The publications were significant factors in determining the direction the movement would take on its ragged course toward enfranchisement."1 On the national level, this task was performed by major publications such as the Woman's Tribune, the Woman's Journal, and the Revolution. Published and edited by nationally known suffrage leaders, these newspapers exerted a major rhetorical influence in the movement.2

As Martha Solomon observes in the introduction to this volume, various writers have examined the rhetorical dimensions of social movements.3 Those scholars agree that persuasion serves a variety of crucial functions within movements generally. For instance, Herbert W. Simons identifies those functions or "rhetorical requirements" as: the need to "attract, maintain and mold workers (i.e., followers) into an efficiently organized unit"; the need to "secure adoption of their product by the larger structure" of society; and the need to "react to resistance generated by the larger structure."4 Charles Stewart, Craig Smith, and Robert E. Denton, Jr., built upon the work of Simons and others to refine those rhetorical functions of movements. They conclude that movements seek rhetorically to transform perceptions of history, transform perceptions of society, prescribe courses of action, mobilize followers for action, and sustain the movement.5 In fulfilling those functions, the nineteenth

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