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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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Human Freedom


Slavery is a wasting disease in the body politic of every human civilization. No matter how well a slaveowner treats his or her slaves, the very idea of owning another person is repugnant. Human freedom and ability to choose how one will live is the cure for the disordered thinking that supports the enslavement of others. Unfortunately, the rhetoric of religion has often upheld slavery in the United States. And, religion has inspired many to fight for abolition and freedom. From Wilber Wilberforce and the Clapham Circle of religious reformers who helped abolish Great Britain’s slave trade in 1807 to activists seeking to stop today’s human trafficking, the call to faith resounds in the duty of believers to bring their neighbors out of bondage.

Many early reformers in the United States were first wave feminists, who connected freedom from slavery to the rights of women. The first speaker, Sojourner Truth was a stalwart voice for blacks and women, and she continues to inspire long after her death in 1883. For Truth, the facts of her message, “Ain’t I a Woman?,” include the witness of her own life. Her Christian faith permeates her address as she challenges ← 115 | 116 → those who oppose women’s rights, and African American women’s rights, when she says, “Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with him.” Truth lived as a slave and then as a free woman. While uneducated, her natural rhetorical skill...

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