Neo-Aristotelean Criticism of Susan B. Anothony's Speech on Women Rights

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Susan B. Anthony delivered the women's suffrage speech in Monroe County, New York in 1873. At one level, the speech was a factual account of her personal experiences and what seemed to be a never ending war to grant women suffrage. Anthony intended to inform others, especially women that the existing inequality at the time was not supported by the Fourteenth Amendment and that women were being treated unfairly by the government.

However, the women's suffrage speech delivered by Anthony was more than just a speech. As impossible and insane as her purpose might have been seen as at that time, this speech was a stepping stone to what lead us to women's suffrage in 1920, the opening of more jobs to women and the "equality" of women to men. As with any of Anthony's other speeches, it had a definite persuasive purpose, in this case it was to draw all women and other male citizens together to fight for a cause. Anthony's speech went form recounting her personal story of being arrested for voting during the election to questioning the government's inability to consider women as people.

Susan B. Anthony's previous credibility had been established through her social work. She was also an educated woman who had held several positions in education and who had founded the Daughters of Temperance Society. Anthony had been working non stop for suffrage for several years and as proof of her hard work, the New York State legislature passed the Married Women's property Act in 1860, allowing women to enter in contracts and to control their earnings and property.

The purpose of this essay is to analyze the rhetoric of the speech on women's suffrage given by Susan B. Anthony. How did Anthony use rhetoric to convince her public that equality must be sought? How did Anthony appeal to others emotions through the delivery of her speech? Did Anthony succeed in inspiring other citizens and women above all to be courageous to fight for the right to equality even being given all the limits that were imposed on women at the time? This analysis seeks to contribute to our understanding of how rhetoric, employed in public speeches, may achieve a persuasive purpose. What is unclear is how Anthony was able to achieve her purpose given the circumstances of the time. First, I will discuss Anthony's background and the involvement she had in society which lead her to become a credible rhetor. Second, I will the essay's critical approach. Finally, I will suggest tentative conclusions about the rhetorical nature and effect of public speaking during the 19th century.


Susan B. Anthony was born in 1820 in a New England farmhouse from Quaker family. Quakers were considered a religious group that arose in the mid-seventieth century in England and who believed that to worship God no priests or places of organized worship were necessary. Quakers also believed in the equality of men and women and were against armed conflict and slavery.

During her upbringing, Susan was influenced by her father's ideas of self-discipline and self worth. Both of her parents were supporters of the antislavery and temperance movements. After graduating, Anthony began to teach in schools since it was one of the few jobs opened to women at the time. Even though being a woman and holding a job at the time seemed to be a great privilege, her weekly salary was equal to one fifth of the salary received by her male colleagues. This was the first time that Anthony found herself protesting inequality and in return, she lost her job.

In 1849, she retired from teaching and joined the local temperance society to focus in social improvements. Once again, she found herself facing inequality when she was denied the right to speak at a Sons of Temperance meeting because of the fact that she was a woman. Outraged, Anthony formed the Daughters of Temperance and began writing articles for the first woman-owned newspaper in the United States, the Lily. This...
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