Campbell, Karlyn Kohrs — Man Cannot Speak for Her

Man Cannot Speak for Her  Karlyn Kohrs Campbell

 

In this seminal text in feminist historiography, Campbell attempts to write the early women’s feminist movement that primary focused on suffrage from the 1830s through the the mid-1920s into rhetorical history.  Working from a definition of rhetoric as the available means symbols can be used to persuade, Campell specifically recovers the rhetorics employed by women rights advocates and suffragists, who also used rhetoric in many cases for abolition and temperance efforts.   While Volume I of Man Cannot Speak for Her anthologizes the rhetorics used in the woman’s suffrage movement, Volume II offers a collection and annotation of the key rhetorical documents from this movement.  Together these offer an incomplete but important effort to recover early feminist rhetoric in the United States and write women into the rhetorical canon.  In addition to revising rhetorical history through these efforts, Campbell also attempts to broaden conceptions of rhetoric itself.  As she notes, many early feminists struggled for the right to speak by subverting concepts of “true womanhood,” venturing onto the public rhetorical platform, “masculanizing” their speech, and defying sexist biological assumptions.  Therefore, early feminist met much resistance and had to use rhetoric creatively to confront this resistance and be heard.  While women such as the Grimke sisters, Elizabeth Cady Canton, and Susan B. Anthony took a more assertive and less “feminine” approach to gain rights for women, social feminists such as Frances Willard took a more traditional “feminine” approach. In addition to difference in approaches, early feminist’s rhetorical style varied as well as their uses of evidence and appeals.  Man Cannnot Speak for Her documents not only these creative, rhetorical  approaches but the tensions inside the suffrage, temperance, and abolition movements that arose as early feminists disagreed on rhetorical strategies, goals, and ideals.  The end product is a useful documentary of the rhetorical diversity used in the struggle for woman’s advancement. 

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Filed under cultural rhetorics exam, historiography exam

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