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Analysis of Rhetorical Strategies in Speech on the Women's Right to Vote by Susan B. Anthony

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In the 19th century, women in the United States had few legal rights and most of all did not have the right to vote. This speech on the women’s right to vote was given by Susan B. Anthony after her arrest for casting an illegal vote in the presidential election of 1872. Anthony was then tried and fined $100 but refused to pay. Not only was she a women’s rights activist but she also fought for the equality of the African American people too. In this speech, she finds a way to address both of these topics and hopefully enable the court to recognize two key issues of inequality. Anthony’s famous speech was spoken at her trial, where she was one of the only women in a court house full of men. Her speech had to be factual and spoken with confidence as she attempted to change longstanding political social norms. Anthony’s speech was organized in a clever fashion constructed around the laws created by the United States Constitution. She began with a fact and throughout the speech continually gave facts supported by firm evidence to defend what she is saying. She uses Kairos as she knows her audience is filled with a courtroom of people who are familiar with the laws and constitution in America and uses that to her advantage. Although the location and timing of the speech may not have been ideal as she was arguing for a false crime yet this setting was to her advantage because in the courthouse all eyes and ears were on her as she spoke. Everyone was forced to respect and listen to what she had to say. In closing her speech, she intelligently begins her statement with a rhetorical question that has a clear answer, which helped her emphasize her points and made the audience question if what they were promoting was right.

Logos is the most prevalent rhetorical strategy in the text. We first see it in the beginning when Anthony speaks about being wrongfully arrested for voting in the last presidential election. In reality, she was exercising the rights granted to her by the constitution.

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She then goes to restate what the constitution says ‘We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” She breaks this statement down asking the courtroom where it forbids women from voting,(and) that their rule should not be over the constitution. This has a big impact because instead of simply stating her opinion to prove her point she has a quality fact that proves it. Ethos is the second most used rhetorical strategy in the text. The best use of it was when Anthony stated “are women persons? And I hardly believe any of our opponents will have the hardihood to say they are not. Being persons, then, women are citizens; and no state has a right to make any law, or to enforce any old law, that shall abridge their privileges or immunities.” This brief sentence untangles and broadcasts how women aren’t treated as equal. Her question ‘are women persons?’ tests the character of the audience, causing them to question how they value and weigh women compared to themselves. Pathos is also used in this passage when Anthony informs the audience that no state has the right change or bend any law just because of a gender. The mix of both accurate information and her appeal to morals in her rhetorical questions makes ethos stand out that much more, helping make her and what she says more believable. Pathos was rarely used in this speech as she was searching for a logical connection with the audience rather than an emotional connection, but both Pathos and Ethos may be found when she states that “It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people.” The repetition of the word “we” demonstrates the importance of her stance, and how she is trying to stress that in the original constitution was meant for the entirety of the population, not just some of it. Anthony lived the unfairness daily. This speech was spoken emotionally yet powerfully through her experiences, especially here with the unison of the word we. The stress on that word makes it that much more powerful and exemplifies her emotions towards this country coming together as one for equal voting rights.

Anthony was a voice when no one else would speak and a symbol of hope for change in America. Her groundbreaking speech was an upstart to the sociological change in the rights for women and African Americans in the 1800s. Without the use of her rhetorical strategies of Kairos, Logos, Ethos, and Pathos her speech would not have been as convincing and would not have impacted the drastic change in politics in the years to come.

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Analysis of Rhetorical Strategies in Speech on the Women’s Right to Vote by Susan B. Anthony. (2022, July 14). Edubirdie. Retrieved November 27, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/analysis-of-rhetorical-strategies-in-speech-on-the-womens-right-to-vote-by-susan-b-anthony/
“Analysis of Rhetorical Strategies in Speech on the Women’s Right to Vote by Susan B. Anthony.” Edubirdie, 14 Jul. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/analysis-of-rhetorical-strategies-in-speech-on-the-womens-right-to-vote-by-susan-b-anthony/
Analysis of Rhetorical Strategies in Speech on the Women’s Right to Vote by Susan B. Anthony. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/analysis-of-rhetorical-strategies-in-speech-on-the-womens-right-to-vote-by-susan-b-anthony/> [Accessed 27 Nov. 2022].
Analysis of Rhetorical Strategies in Speech on the Women’s Right to Vote by Susan B. Anthony [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jul 14 [cited 2022 Nov 27]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/analysis-of-rhetorical-strategies-in-speech-on-the-womens-right-to-vote-by-susan-b-anthony/
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