Friday, August 29, 2014

11 famous speeches by women about work from The Eloquent Woman Index

Women's work is never done, they say--making it a natural topic when women give speeches. I've chosen 11 famous speeches by women about labor and work in advance of Labor Day, all from The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Speeches by Women. The work in question runs the gamut. These speeches touch on everything from "leaning in," ironing and mommy-tracking to garment workers, coal miners, engineers, attorneys and more. Success and failure, discrimination and how to support workers are all themes in these modern and historic speeches. Click through for text, video or audio where available, and what you can learn for your own public speaking from these forthright women speakers:
  1. Rose Schneiderman's speech on the 1911 Triangle Fire minced no words as she took to task an audience assembled to figure out how to prevent another such garment factory fire. Her title says it all: "We have found you wanting."
  2. Betty Friedan's 1970 call for a women's strike led to women marching in the streets with signs that said "Don't iron while the strike is hot." This first president of the National Organization for Women wanted the strike to show the value of an undervalued source of labor, the housewife.
  3. Ai-Jen Poo at the U.S. Social Forum focused on the rights of today's domestic workers, her passion and cause. She's a modern-day organizer fighting for the rights of a new underclass.
  4. Carol Bartz's commencement speech,"Embrace Failure," was delivered while she was CEO of Yahoo--a post from which she was later fired. Her advice is to fail early and often, an unusual message for graduates.
  5. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on "Portia's Progress" looked at advances made for women in the law, from a Supreme Court justice who entered the law when women with law degrees often become legal secretaries. 
  6. Mother Jones's speech to West Virginia miners was a typical-for-her hell-raising speech--and the only reason we have the text is because the mine owners hired a stenographer, hoping to gather evidence that she was violent and dangerous. 
  7. Elisabeth Murdoch's speech to the UK television industry took them to task right away for failing to invite many noted women in the profession to give this important lecture...and gets better from there.
  8. Frances Perkins on the roots of Social Security looked back at this important support system for workers. The first U.S. Secretary of Labor, Perkins took inspiration from having heard Rose Schneiderman's Triangle Fire speech (see number 1, above) -- a moment she recalls in this much later speech.
  9. Sheila Widnall on women in engineering made clear the small insults women engineers face, being called "Mrs." instead of "Doctor," and worse. Her forthright delivery helped make it acceptable to discuss these poor working conditions.
  10. Viola Davis's "What keeps me in the business is hope" took an awards acceptance speech and turned it into an extraordinary statement about how difficult it is to be a black actor in Hollywood. This talk is extemporaneous, a real tour de force. Don't miss the video.
  11. Sheryl Sandberg's Barnard commencement address coined the term "lean in," as she urged graduates not to mommy-track themselves long before they needed to do so.
I'll be leading Be The Eloquent Woman, my day-long workshop on women and public speaking, as a pre-conference session at the European Speechwriter Network's autumn speechwriters and business communicators conference in Amsterdam. The workshop is 23 October and the conference is 24 October. You'll learn how to speak with confidence, content and credibility to subvert the common expectations of women speakers. Please join me!

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