Chapter

Vindicating Female Eloquence

in A Nation of Speechifiers

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2009 | ISBN: 9780226180199
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226180212 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226180212.003.0003
Vindicating Female Eloquence

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Many Americans welcomed the idea that the new nation during its early decades would be inhabited by well-spoken, publicly engaged women. Elocutionary education not only helped teach children in America to play their parts in public, but also encouraged a certain degree of female ambition and even political participation. In addition to speaking regularly at their schools' public exhibitions, girls learned elocution in virtually the same way as boys. These themes were evident in the speeches by real girls that sometimes made broad claims about the possibilities of women's active participation in civic matters. Girls' speeches show that they often learned to capitalize on gender differences in public speaking for greater persuasive effect. This chapter discusses the gendered qualities of girls' elocution. It examines changing modes of education for girls throughout the early republic and looks at conceptions of women's roles in public and political culture. It also considers how girls' oratory gave rise to a female counterpublic, along with its eventual decline.

Keywords: public speaking; girls; eloquence; oratory; America; elocutionary education; political culture; counterpublic; elocution; gender

Chapter.  12304 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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