List of feminist rhetoriticians

This is a list of women and their major works who have considerably contributed to and shaped the rhetorical discourse about women over time:


(c.469-c.406 BCE)Aspasia was the mistress of the statesman Pericles, and after he divorced his wife they lived together as if they were married. Their home was a place where men and their wives came. It was a place of conversation and culture. Aspasia's writings do not remain, but she is mentioned by writers such as Plato in regard to her contributions to rhetoric.

*Plato’s "Menexenus"


Socrates references Diotima in "Plato's Symposium", as a seer or priestess who taught him "the philosophy of eros" when he was young. It is not known whether she was a real person, or a character he developed.

*Plato’s "Symposium" (c. 360 B.C.E.)


*"Letter I. Heloise to Abelard" (1132)

St. Catherine of Siena

(1347-1380) St. Catherine of Siena was the daughter of a poet and had no formal education. She devoted her life to Christ, and wrote hundreds of letters to individuals in authority and to the Pope. Over three hundred of these letters still exist and are viewed as a major work of early Tuscan literature.

*"" (1376)

Christine de Pizan

(1364-1430)de Pizan had a writing career that spanned approximately thirty years. During that time, she wrote numerous pieces (41 known works) and was considered as Europe's first professional writer. She is seen as a feminist who challenged the misogyny of male writers.

*"The Book of the City of Ladies" (1404)

Laura Cereta

(1469-1499)Cereta's main writing consisted of letters to other scholars. She believed in women's right to education and fought against the oppression marriage brought to women.

*"Letter to Bibulus, Sempronius, Defense of the Liberal Instruction of Women" (1488)

Margery Kempe

(c. 1373-after 1438) Kempe's book, possibly the first autobiography in English, gives readers a glimpse of a woman's life in the Middle Ages.

*"The Book of Margery Kempe" (1436)

Margaret Fell

(1614-1702) Fell was one of the founding members of the Religious Society of Friends. The meetings held by the Society were frequently held in her home and, as an educated individual, she wrote many of the epistles. She remained an active Quaker throughout her life.

*"Womens Speaking Justified, Proved and Allowed by the Scriptures" (1666)

Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz

(1651-1695) There is question on the year of de la Cruz's birth, but no one questions that she was a self taught Mexican scholar and writer who lived in a viceroy's court until entering the convent to become a nun in 1668. Her writing focused on freedom in regard to race and gender.

*"La Respuesta" (1691)

Mary Astell

(1666-1731) Astell was an advocate of equal educational opportunities for women. She was educated informally by her uncle, who had been suspended by the church.

*"A Serious Proposal to the Ladies" (1694)

Mary Wollstonecraft

(1759-1797) Wollstonecraft had a short lived, but important writing career. It lasted only nine years, but covered a wide span of genres and topics. She is recognized for her early advocacy of women's rights.

*"A Vindication of the Rights of Woman" (1792)

Maria W. Stewart

(1803-1897) Orphaned early, Stewart was a servant in a minister's home and received her education there. Due to the religious nature of her education, many of her speeches and written work held deeply religious tones. She was known as a women's rights advocate that spoke to African American women about rights and social justice.

*"Lecture Delivered at the Franklin Hall" (1832)

Sarah Grimke

(1792-1873) Grimke was the southern born daughter of a plantation owner. She was self educated, and became an attorney and a judge in South Carolina, USA. Her belief in education brought her to teach her personal slave how to read, contrary to the laws of the time. After becoming a Quaker, she fought for women's rights and against slavery.

*"Letter to Theodore Weld" (1837)

Margaret Fuller

(1810-1850) Fuller was an editor, critic, journalist, and women's rights activist. She was active in the field of journalism all of her life, and held discussion groups for women regarding arts, education, and other issues deemed important to women.

*"Woman in the Nineteenth Century" (1845)

Sojourner Truth

(c. 1797-1883) A slave and then a domestic servant, Truth was a noted activist in regard to abolition and women's rights. She is best known for her speech "Ain't I a Woman."

*"Speech at the Woman’s Rights Convention, Akron, Ohio" (1851)

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

(1825-1911) Watkins Harper was an African American born to free parents. Her education came about while she was a servant in a Quaker household and given access to the family's library. She was known as a writer (both books and poetry), lecturer, and political activist. She held office in several organizations that promoted abolition, civil rights, and women's rights. [Cite web
title=Afro-American Women Writers 1746-1933: An Anthology and Critical Guide
author=Ann Allen Shockley
first=Ann Allen
publisher=Meridian Books

*"We Are All Bound Up Together" (1866)

Susan B. Anthony

(1820-1906) Anthony, the daughter of a Quaker, was well educated. She was a teacher and activist who worked tirelessly in regard to abolition, temperance, and women's rights. Anthony traveled extensively with Elizabeth Cady Stanton promoting women's rights and equality.

*"The United States of America v. Susan B. Anthony" (1873)

Sarah Winnemucca

(c. 1841-1891) Winnemucca was a Paiute who wrote an autobiographical account of her people's early experiences with white settlers and the government. She is the first Native American woman to copyright and publish a text in English. The book is considered controversial and some members of her tribe saw her as selling out to the white man. She became a noted speaker and activist.

*"Life Among the Piutes" (1883)

Anna Julia Cooper

(1858-1964) Cooper was born into slavery, but had no memory of it. She taught until she married when she was forced to leave her post. Her husband died a short time later. Her book about Southern black woman was considered the first feminist work by an African American woman. [Cite web
title=Women's Intellectual Contributions to the Study of Mind and Society: Anna Julia Cooper
accessmonthday=August 2
publisher=Webster University

*"The Higher Education of Women" (1892)
*"A Voice from the South by a Black Woman of the South"

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

(1815-1902) Stanton was an activist in the anti-slavery movement and one of the leading figures of the early women's rights movement. She was friends with both Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, a former slave, abolitionist, and noted author.

*"The Solitude of Self" (1892)

Fannie Barrier Williams

(1855-1944) Williams was an African American educator and political activist.

*"The Intellectual Progress of Colored Women of the United States since the Emancipation Proclamation" (1893)

Ida B. Wells

(1862-1931) Ida B. Wells (also known as Ida Wells-Barnett) was an African American woman who was a journalist and public speaker. She adamantly stood against lynching and worked for women's suffrage and rights.

*"Lynch Law in All its Phases" (1893)

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

(1860-1935) Gilman was a prominent American short story writer, novelist, lecturer, and feminist activist. She wrote the short story "The Yellow Wallpaper", which addresses mental illness in women and its treatment. It is the story she is most recognized for today.

*"Women and Economics" (1898)

Gertrude Buck

(1849-1922) Gertrude Buck was a professor of English at Vassar College from 1897 until her death in 1922. She was an educator who is well-known in the area of the history of composition. She wrote, as well, but her writing is not well-known. She authored articles on rhetorical theory, poetry, plays, and textbooks. Her textbooks were written for female students and encouraged them in learning and in the participation of politics. [Cite book
last=Campbell |first=JoAnn
title=Toward a Feminist Rhetoric: The Writing of Gertrude Buck
accessyear=2006 |accessmonth=August
year=1996 |month=April
publisher=University of Pittsburgh Press
id=ISBN 0-8229-5573-3

*"The Present Status of Rhetorical Theory" (1900)

Mary Augusta Jordan

(1881-1947) Mary Augusta Jordan was a professor of English at Smith College from 1884 to 1921.

*"Correct Writing and Speaking" (1904)

Margaret Sanger

(1879-1966) Sanger was a women's activist in regard to birth control. She was the founder of what is now Planned Parenthood (originally called the American Birth Control League).

*"Letter to the Readers of The Woman Rebel" (1914)

Emma Goldman

(1869-1940) Goldman was a part of an anarchist movement and was considered part of what is known as the first-wave feminist movement.

*"Marriage and Love" (1914)

Alice Dunbar Nelson

(1875-1935) Alice Dunbar Nelson was married to another poet named Paul Laurence Dunbar. She was a poet, journalist and political activist.

*"Facing Life Squarely" (1927)

Dorothy Day

(1897-1980) Day was a journalist and social activist known for her defense of the poor and homeless.

*"Memorial Day in Chicago" (1937)

Virginia Woolf

(1882-1941) Woolf was a member of the Bloomsbury Group and noted for her feminist works. One of her most famous works is "Mrs. Dalloway."

*"Professions for Women" (1942)

Zora Neale Hurston

(1891-1960) Hurston was an African-American author and part of the Harlem Renaissance. Her best known work is the novel "Their Eyes Were Watching God."

*"Crazy for This Democracy" (1945)

Simone de Beauvoir

(1908-1986) Beauvoir was a French philosopher, novelist, and essayist who was educated first in a Catholic girls' school, and then studied philosophy at the Sorbonne. She taught philosophy until she was dismissed by the Nazis in 1943. Her most widely known feminist work was "The Second Sex", published in 1949. [Cite web
title=Books and Writers: Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986) - in full Simone Lucie-Ernestine-Marie-Bertrand de Beauvoir
accessmonthday=August 2 |accessyear=2006
last=Liukkonen |first=Petri

*"The Second Sex" (1952)

Rachel Carson

(1907-1964) Carson was a zoologist and marine biologist who was prominent in the global environmental movement and is credited with helping change the pesticide policy in the United States.

*"A Fable for Tomorrow" (1962)

Adrienne Rich

(born May 16) Rich is an American feminist, poet, teacher, and writer who has been given awards, and turned some of them down. She is most recognized for her work in the women's movement, but is also involved in the social justice movement.

*"" (1971)

Helene Cixous

(born June 5, 1937) Cixous is a professor, feminist writer, poet, playwright, philosopher, and rhetorician. She is well known for her work analyzing language and sex.

*"Sorties" (1975)

Julia Kristeva

(born 24 June 1941) Kristeva was born in Bulgaria. She is a philosopher, psychoanalyst, and feminist who added novelist to the list of her accomplishments.

*"Women’s Time" (1979)

Audre Lorde

(1934-1992) Lorde was a poet and activist involved in the civil rights, antiwar, and feminist movements.

*"The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action" (1977)

Merle Woo

*"Letter to Ma" (1980),"This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color," by Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua (Kitchen Table Women of Color Press)
* "Home Movies: A Dramatic Monologue," "Three Asian American Writers Speak Out on Feminism," by Mitsuye Yamada, Merle Woo, and Nellie Wong ( [ Radical Women Publications] )
* "Yellow Woman Speaks: Selected Poems," by Merle Woo ( [ Radical Women Publications] )

Alice Walker

(born February 9, 1944) Walker, an African American author and feminist, wrote the novel "The Color Purple". It was awarded both the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award. She is well known as an outspoken individual regarding women's rights, race, sexuality, and the importance of culture.

*"In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens" (1983)

Evelyn Fox Keller

*"A Feeling for the Organism" (1983)

Andrea Dworkin

(1946-2005) Dworkin was an anti-war activist during the Vietnam War. She was also a nationally recognized feminist who stood adamantly against pornography and violence against women.

*"I Want a Twenty-Four Hour Truce During Which There Is No Rape" (1983)

Paula Gunn Allen

(born in 1939) Allen is a Native American poet, literary critic, activist and novelist. One of her focuses has been the role of women in the Native American culture.

*"" (1986)

Gloria Anzaldua

(1942-2004) Anzaldua was a feminist and lesbian who was also writer, poet, scholar and activist who focuses on issues of race in both her writing and studies.

*"Borderlands" (1987)

June Jordan

(1936-2002) Jordan was an activist, writer, poet, and teacher. She was born to Jamaican immigrants, and after her family moved to Brooklyn, New York, USA, she was the only black student attending her high school.

*"Don’t You Talk About My Momma!" (1987)

Trinh T. Minh-Ha

(born in Vietnam, 1952) Minh-Ha immigrated to the United States in 1970. She studied music and literatire at the University of Illinois, where she received M.F.A. and Ph.D. degrees. Currently, she is both the Chancellor's Distinguished Professor of Women's Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and an associate professor of cinema, San Francisco State University. She is a filmmaker, writer, literary theorist, and composer who focuses much of her work around identity. [Cite web
title=Artist Biography: T. Minh-ha Trinh
accessmonthday=August 2 |accessyear=2006
last=Longballa |first=John
date=May 23, 2001 |year=2001 |month=May
publisher=VG: Voices from the Gaps

*"Women, Native, Other" (1989)

Bell Hooks

(born September 25, 1952) Bell Hooks was born Gloria Jean Watkins and is a social activist who is internationally known. Her works focus on race, class, and gender and the oppression by, and of, each.

*"Homeplace (a site of resistance)" (1990)

Nancy Mairs

*"Carnal Acts" (1990)

Terry Tempest-Williams

*"The Clan of One-Breasted Women" (1991)

Minnie Bruce Pratt

*"Gender Quiz" (1995)

Dorothy Allison

(born April 11, 1949) Allison is a writer, speaker, and professor. Her works focus on themes surrounding women: class struggle, child and sexual abuse, women, lesbianism, feminism, and family. She is well known for her first novel "Bastard Out of Carolina", which was published in 1992.

*"Two of Three Things I Know for Sure" (1995)

Nomy Lamm

*"It’s a Big Fat Revolution" (1995)

Leslie Marmon Silko

(born Leslie Marmon on March 5, 1948) Silko is a mix of Native American, European American, and Mexican American, and is recognized as a Native American writer. She was raised on the edge of a reservation and attended a Catholic school. She associates most strongly with her Laguna ancestry.

*"Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit" (1996)

Ruth Behar

(born 1962) Behar is a feminist, anthropologist, poet, writer, and professor. She currently teaches at the University of Michigan.

*"Anthropology That Breaks Your Heart" (1996)

Gloria Steinem

(born March 25, 1934) Steinem is probably the most recognized American feminist. She is also a journalist and spokeswoman for women's rights. After working as an assistant editor, she became a freelance journalist. Eventually, she founded "Ms. magazine".

*"Supremacy Crimes" (1999)


Please note: All information referenced regarding the above female rhetoricians comes from established Wikipedia articles/pages unless otherwise stated.

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