Monday, March 1, 2010

Women's history through a speaker's lens

Photo from the Library of Congress photostream on Flickr
March is women's history month, and The Eloquent Woman offers you a wide-ranging selection of women's history, as seen through the lens of women who battled against the status quo and sought opportunities to speak in public.  Kathleen Hall Jamieson noted that "History has many themes. One of them is that women should be quiet."  Since that theme persists in many circles today, grab some inspiration from these women who found ways to speak up and speak out throughout history:

  • Henrietta Bell Wells, the lone woman on the now-famous 1930s black college debate team whose story was told in the movie The Great Debaters
  • Two great first ladies: Lady Bird Johnson, who overcame a powerful fear of public speaking to demonstrate poise and skill speaking before some of the most contentious audiences ever, and Eleanor Roosevelt, who felt pushed into speaking in public, but became a powerhouse communicator.
  • Women labor activists who shared public speaking skills with other women during a major auto-workers' strike in the 1930s, and other Michigan women who spoke out against slavery and for votes for women.
  • Dorothy Sarnoff, a noted New York speaker coach who began her work offering voice lessons for women in a department store--because that's where women were in the 1960s.
  • Some famous women who were prevented from speaking in public, including the top activists in getting the vote for U.S. women, bestselling author Harriet Beecher Stowe, charismatic former slave Sojourner Truth, and civil rights activist Rosa Parks.
  • The "eloquent thunder" of Representative Barbara Jordan still rings in many ears--and earned her a top rank among all political speakers, male or female.
  • A woman whose business savvy and presentation skills propelled thousands of women into public speaking in living rooms all over the U.S.:  Brownie Wise, who came up with the "Tupperware party" as a home-sales marketing campaign.
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