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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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During the twentieth century a growing consensus emerged that there was a single canon of great speeches with which every student of communication should be familiar. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, however, Professor Martin Medhurst issued a call for a reconceptualization of the canon of public address when he wrote, “What can be done—and ought to be done—is for individual discourse communities to form their own canons through the process of rhetorical archaeology—the recovery of texts and discourses central to the self-understanding and public expression of specific groups and movements.”1 This is the precise call to which Women’s Voices of Duty and Destiny: Religious Speeches Transcending Gender responds.

This volume is the inaugural contribution to Speaking of Religion book series. As a collection, the series grows from a scholarly attentiveness to the role that religion plays in the public sphere. The decline of religious influence in public affairs is a common yet false narrative in the United States. Americans remain a devout people who are motivated to action by their faith commitments. Several contemporary, ← ix | x → interdisciplinary scholars point us toward the privilege that religion and faith enjoy in public life. Collectively their work asserts that the world has entered a post-secular era: Secularism is dead and God is alive.2 As but a single example, Michael Minkenberg, writes about international policy debates and concludes that “even in the age of postmodernity, religion is still a force in the realm of...

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