Testimonial Rhetoric in Nineteenth-Century Composition
Chapter Four Jessie Macmillan Anderson: A Composition Microhistory (Rhiannon Scharnhorst)
Jessie Macmillan Anderson was the first woman to publish a textbook on the teaching of writing in colleges: Sixty Composition-topics for Students in High Schools and Colleges: With Hints on Essay-writing, in 1894. Anderson herself was a college-educated woman, the main source of income in her marriage, and a regular lecturer on education for women’s groups throughout the United States. She also published prolifically, including four textbooks, four novels, and at least sixteen articles, poems, and stories between 1890 and 1932. Anderson does not seem to have been particularly well known in her own time, and her publications in education do not appear to have circulated very widely or far. However, by digging into this seemingly prosaic legacy, I see a woman whose surface ordinariness is remarkable for what it tells me about the everyday life of a nineteenth century educator.
Anderson’s history, and the legacy her writing leaves behind, mirrors the unrecognized lives and work of many contemporary composition teachers and scholars. Rhetoric and composition theorist Bruce McComiskey asks in Microhistories of Composition, “Has real teaching been abstracted out of our narratives of composition history? Have teachers and students been erased by the drive for temporal progression and narrative coherence?” (8). Most individuals in the field of composition are not distinguished scholars yet still contribute innovative pedagogy, written legacies, and ideas to the discipline. By studying the everyday work of Jessie Macmillan ←107 | 108→ Anderson, we come to appreciate the often-unseen labor of...
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