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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.

“Kudos for a fresh collection of influential women’s rhetoric! Elizabeth W. McLaughlin’s book demonstrates the motivating power religious commitment has for shaping passionate speech. Her approach listens respectfully to the whole person in context, and she uses the narrative paradigm as a way of organizing her thoughts on women’s religiously framed public address. The tension between duty and destiny, freedom and religious constraints pulls on the reader but is held together by the author’s deep respect for women as image bearers of God. A worthy read!”—Annalee R. Ward, Director of the Wendt Center for Character Education and Professor of Communication, University of Dubuque

“This wonderful book documents the courage of women whose eloquent words speak to us today as counsel in a world seemingly gone mad with ego, incivility, and injustice. Readers can drink the wisdom and compassion and become better citizen-persons. The scope of female orators provides both ideological balance and multicultural richness. Highly recommended for reading and discussion.”—Quentin Schultze, Professor of Communication Emeritus, Calvin College

“Elizabeth W. McLaughlin’s chosen speech artifacts deftly illustrate the push/pull tension of women extending our voices in championing peace, kindness, education, and spirituality all within the narrative space of women’s positions in discursive communities. The topically arranged speeches in this volume bring forth the boundaries women are continually navigating regarding authority, scope of action, duty, and the notion that being female is ‘not a blow’ (Schlafly) from a variety of religious, social, and political perspectives. Together, the collection shines a much-needed light on universal and very human concerns as understood and articulated through women’s voices.”—Melinda Farrington, Assistant Professor of Communication, Saint Vincent College

“Elizabeth W. McLaughlin has compiled a valuable collection of women’s speeches, many of which are not otherwise easily available. Although these texts span centuries, continents, and religious traditions, they sit at the intersection of religion and civic life and they consider humanity’s most enduring questions of faith, freedom, relationships, and more. McLaughlin usefully elucidates the themes that run across the speeches, contextualizes each speaker and speech in its historical moment, and gives the reader critical vocabulary for interpreting each speech. The book makes these important speeches accessible to a broad audience.”—Kristjana Lyn Maddux, Associate Professor and Co-director of Graduate Studies, University of Maryland

“If there’s a need for one thing in this age it is keen attention toward the significance of human personhood and dignity. Certainly, the crises facing our world are numerous, but as Elizabeth W. McLaughlin focuses the lens more narrowly on women’s voices, a perspective is offered that has often been muffled—if not missing—in the history of oratory. The author’s contribution to women’s studies, religion, and the quest for meaning will be relevant and read for years to come.”—Stephanie Bennett, Professor of Communication and Media Ecology and Fellow for Student Engagement, Palm Beach Atlantic University

“In few contexts have women’s voices been more disadvantaged than in overtly religious ones. What makes this collection of public addresses by women particularly valuable is not just the illumination of the courage and determination of women to speak powerful and profitable words into the public and communal issues of their day, but also the power and importance of religious faith as a source of rhetorical invention. Elizabeth W. McLaughlin has assembled an engaging and heuristic array of speeches—some familiar, some less familiar, and some more counterintuitive—that collectively shows not only the insight and determination of women to be heard, but also their respect for the need to earn the right to be heard well by others that rhetorical theorists have emphasized from antiquity.”—Mark Allan Steiner, Associate Professor of Communication, Christopher Newport University

“This book is inspiring and empowering for all women who struggle with the tension to uphold gendered, religious expectations and to pursue a calling to speak their convictions. The 14 remarkable women discussed in this brilliant book represent a wide range of faith traditions and demonstrate how women can reconcile this tension and thereby make immeasurable contributions to society, serving as exemplars for how we too can simultaneously fulfill our duty and our destiny.”—Diane M. Badzinski, Professor of Communication, Colorado Christian University

Women’s Voices of Duty and Destiny is a ‘must-have’ addition to the bookshelf for any scholar of women’s religious rhetoric. Elizabeth W. McLaughlin’s book is a sensitive assessment of women’s rhetorical contributions to numerous religious traditions. She doesn’t shy away from including women, such as Phyllis Schlafly, whose rhetorical contributions do not fit into a traditional feminist canon, but who nonetheless did have a tremendous impact on feminist discourse and American politics.”—Christy Mesaros-Winckles, Chair Communication Arts and Sciences, Adrian College

“Elizabeth W. McLaughlin states in her introduction ‘the human desire to connect with the sacred is almost universal.’ She then demonstrates an adept ability to connect her readers with feminine truth-seekers, holding hands across a vast expanse of time and place, bringing their concerns forward with fresh insight. Against a contemporary societal mishmash of gender-bending dialogue, McLaughlin grounds us with a sincere consideration of worthy discourse that has stood the test of time. Using speech texts from an impressive array of mindful women from all walks of life and spiritual inclinations, she carefully examines a wide spectrum of communication perspectives and presents them objectively. She provides circumstantial and individual personal context for each speech, thus lifting it above mere essay perusal. It’s as if she has traveled far and wide to bring back a shipload of gems to share. After polishing them to expose the many facets, she provides the viewer glimpses into deeper prisms of truth. Her articulate review of each speech text reveals her determination to explore the heart, mind and intuition of the speaker, while remaining true to her own role of honest examination. The work is both timely and provocative.”—Darlene Graves, Professor of Communication Studies, Liberty University

“Elizabeth W. McLaughlin’s well-written book exemplifies the tried and true ‘text in context’ approach to rhetorical analysis. Of course, by ‘context’ I mean each individual speaker’s historical, philosophical, and societal context, not ours, no matter how much we are tempted to judge historical speakers and speeches according to our own contemporary ideas and standards. Furthermore, McLaughlin’s book delivers to the reader glimpses of great women orators who did not dispatch or downplay their faith to become public figures, but brought their religious convictions into public life. In my opinion, there is an empty space on the shelf labeled ‘Historical Speeches’ where this book will proudly fit.”—Michael Phillip Graves, independent scholar