RHETORIC AND REVISION: WOMEN’S ARGUMENTS FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE IN THE PROGRESSIVE ERA

Open Access
Author:
Sheriff, Stacey Ellen
Graduate Program:
English
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
August 31, 2009
Committee Members:
  • Cheryl Jean Glenn, Dissertation Advisor
  • Cheryl Jean Glenn, Committee Chair
  • Dr Jack Selzer, Committee Member
  • Keith Gilyard, Committee Member
  • Linda Furgerson Selzer, Committee Member
  • James Hogan, Committee Member
Keywords:
  • progressive era
  • rhetoric
Abstract:
How did women advocate for social justice and civil rights during the Progressive Era? How were their interventions received? How did experiences of rhetorical failure shape their rhetorical strategies and practices? To address such questions, Rhetoric and Revision takes up case studies of activists Ida B. Wells, Sui Sin Far, and Jane Addams, who each engaged issues central to democratic citizenship. Wells worked to galvanize the American public to end lynching, Sui Sin Far argued for Chinese American civil rights and a progressive conception of Eurasian identity, and Addams advocated for pacifism and international mediation as an alternative to World War I. Using archival sources and rare newspaper and periodical items, I demonstrate that while each of these rhetors is known for her communicative savvy, courage, and diplomacy, each experienced significant moments of rhetorical failure. By situating such experiences in historical and sociocultural context, I analyze their compositional choices and their texts’ reception, demonstrating how each rhetor was constrained by her positioning and resources. I also examine the strategic revisions each employed to continue her rhetorical advocacy. My study reveals how diverse and significant Progressive Era women argued for social justice and used their understandings of the privileges of nationality, race, and gender to complicate the binary between speaker and audience. Rhetoric and Revision centralizes issues of power, access, and resources and broadens our understanding of the “typical” rhetorical exigencies of the Progressive Era.