Friday, January 6, 2012

Launching the new Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Women's Speeches

A year ago, The Eloquent Woman blog launched a new weekly feature called "Famous Speech Friday," designed to answer a question I kept getting from speakers, trainees and speaker coaches: "Where can I find examples of great women's speeches?" Often, the questioners would add that they could only find examples from long-past speeches from the most famous of now-dead women speakers, like Eleanor Roosevelt or Barbara Jordan. And many lists of important speeches only feature a handful of famous talks by women.

Not anymore. One year and 46 famous women's speeches later, we've got everything from Eleanor Roosevelt to Lady Gaga, among many others. Now I've collected all of them to create in one place The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Women's Speeches, an index that will grow as our Famous Speech Friday series continues.

Here's a flavor of what you'll find in the index:

  • Women speakers from many locations and many topics: Women from the U.S., Canada, England, France, Haiti and Kenya were featured, and their topics range from war, business, the environment and equal rights to cancer, orgasm, gender identity and family. All of them rock the house in their own way.
  • Women  in a wide range of roles: There are First Ladies, presidential candidates, governors, members of Congress, a prime minister, an international banker, business executives, religious crusaders, cancer and stroke survivors, government agency heads, activists, feminists and anti-feminists, writers, actresses, singers, royalty, women who are old, young, black, white, Native American, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, liberal,  and conservative. 
  • The types of speeches also vary widely, with commencement addresses, eulogies, political stump speeches, lectures, tributes, awards acceptances, keynotes, congressional testimony, international declarations, TED talks, mock debates, convention speeches, speeches to interest groups, legal arguments, assessments of women's progress in professions, evocative fables and rousing union speeches on our roster.

I set a special goal for these speeches, looking for examples that not only hold good lessons for today's speakers--each example has at least three lessons for you--but also speeches that reflect women speaking about women's issues, at least in part. Wherever possible, we've provided links to the text or a transcript, along with audio or video of the speech or one like it.

It's not easy committing to a weekly series, particularly when the sources of information are scattered and sketchy; for much of our history, women were discouraged from speaking publicly, and the records of their talks were not preserved and made available. For that reason, I am grateful to the many historians, historic sites, government and university archives, women's studies programs and other sources of excellent information. Links to their offerings are in  each post, and I welcome hearing from other sources of information on famous women's speeches of today and yesterday. And hear me, those of you with women speakers today: Please transcribe and record their speeches and make them publicly available!

I have made a permanent page on the blog for the index, so that, as we continue the Famous Speech Friday series, the list will continue to grow and serve as a ready reference. I welcome your suggestions for future famous speech examples by women, at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz...but first, go take a look at your new reference, The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Women's Speeches, and please pass it around. Who's your favorite so far on the list?