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Women’s Voices of Duty and Destiny

Religious Speeches Transcending Gender


Elizabeth W. McLaughlin

This book collection is a celebration of women who speak truth to power in the public square. A perfect fit for undergraduate students of rhetoric, gender, religion and history, Women’s Voices of Duty and Destiny showcases the speech texts of 14 women addressing societal issues from the values of their religious beliefs and discourse communities. Between the tensions of the duty of gender roles and human destiny, these global voices representing different time periods and religions address the thematic issues of faith, society, education, reform, freedom and peacemaking. Written in clear, straightforward language, students will directly encounter the words and voices of leaders who strive to make the world better for all in the quest for human dignity. Each speaker seeks to forward the transcendent value of human freedom as reinforced by her explicit references to the divine. This collection is appropriate for 200-400 level undergraduate classes and offers a broad sampling of women who speak in the public square.

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What can we take away as we leave this collection of women’s voices? In full recognition that other worthy speakers and speeches could and should be studied, what wisdom does this sampler offer? This is largely up to the reader to decide, of course, but as we move forward, here are a few parting thoughts.

Throughout this book, I have made connections between the dialectical tensions of the backward pull of duty to conform to proscribed women’s roles and place, and the push forward toward destiny and human freedom, as influenced by religious values. Every speaker and address represented in this book, in effect, has attempted to reconcile these tensions in the life and rhetorical choices each has made. Every speaker is a leader, some overcoming great hardship, and each diligent in hard work in service of others in her given sphere of influence. These orators are exemplars of servant leadership in partnership with a freeing vision of the divine.

In addition, I have referred to the narrative paradigm to consider the larger story each speaker is inviting the audience to join in her proposal for change. Using the skills of story-telling, each speaker ← 153 | 154 → has endeavored to persuade her audiences to live by the transcendent values of their shared discourse communities. Rabbi Sally J. Priesand and Agnes Baker Pilgrim each articulated the importance of repairing and replenishing the world around us in partnership with the divine.

Clarina Howard Nichols, Phyllis...

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