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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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“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”

— Jesus (Matthew 5:9, KJV)

How can we find peace in this broken world? The Hebrew concept of Shalom or wholeness of life, speaks to the universal longing for an end to war and the freedom to live in community, raise children, work, feed our families, get an education, and live a fruitful, healthy life. The elusive quest dances between the paradox of human desire for perfection and the real nature of human lust for power at the expense of others. In this section, we explore the speech texts of three women who were people of faith, public leaders in their contexts, and advocates for peace. In very different ways, they propose their visions for peacemaking and outline their duty to this cause.

These speeches share the transcendent value of the importance of human life. The messages vary with the speaker. One claims that abortion is the central cause of violence. Another avers that Christ calls for pacifism and against all forms of war. The final speaker refers to the importance of human kindness in the face of suffering as a way forward. While their approaches may differ, all three speakers have ← 125 | 126 → dedicated their lives to stand against human poverty and oppression. Once again, these speakers’ lives and actions support the coherence and fidelity of their narratives. While controversial, their speeches reflect their religious values.

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