After analyzing how a speaker’s adopted ‘persona’ impacts their use of rhetoric through an examination of a series of letters by Thomas Jefferson, you will now look at how different speakers with the same persona use a variety of different rhetorical devices based on differing audiences.

During the Expansionist period of American Literary History, we see an up-tick in writings by women, as they took to the factories to work or began to desire the opportunities for advanced education and more equal protection under the law. These were only the very early beginnings of what would later be the reform movement of ‘Women’s Suffrage’ – while women of this period did desire change for their circumstances, they still largely delivered in the idea of ‘Republican Womanhood’ and ‘The Cult of Domesticity’, influences by the ideals of the Second Great Awakening. Please remember this context as you analyze the documents, and that the meaning of words and philosophies changer over time. The ideals of Republican Motherhood, though apart of the larger suffrage movement,  are not exactly the same as women of the later part of suffrage movement and progressive era movements or 20th century feminism that you might already be familiar with. To conduct an accurate analysis you need to make sure you understand the historical context for these documents!

Republican Motherhood believed that women should run a household “where children are raised to value patriotism and the sacrificing of their own needs for the greater good of the country. By doing so, the mothers would encourage their sons to pursue liberty and roles in the government, while their daughters would perpetuate the domestic sphere with the next generation. In addition, women were permitted to receive more of an education than they previously had been allowed” in the past, in order to educate their own children.

The Cult of Domesticity “identified the home as women’s ‘proper sphere’. Women were supposed to inhabit the private sphere, running the household and production of food (including servants), rearing the children, and taking care of the husband. […] True Women” were to hold and practice the four cardinal virtues:

  • Piety – Religion was valued because—unlike intellectual pursuits—it did not take a woman away from her “proper sphere,” the home, and because it controlled women’s longings.
  • Purity – Virginity, a woman’s greatest treasure, must not be lost until her marriage night, and married women had to remain committed only to their husbands.
  • Submission – True women were required to be as submissive and obedient “as little children” because men were regarded as women’s superiors “by God’s appointment”.
  • Domesticity – A woman’s proper place was in the home and her role as a wife was to create a refuge for her husband and children. Cooking, needlework, making beds, and tending flowers were considered naturally feminine activities, whereas reading anything other than religious biographies was discouraged.”

If you need the background notes from the 1st half of the video we viewed in class, please see it below:

In your groups you have been assigned one of three documents:

  • A poem, “On Equality of the Sexes” by Judith Sargent Murray
  • An excerpt from a formal report, “What is the profession of a Woman?” by Catherine Beecher
  • An excerpt from a piece of journalism, “A real picture of factory life” by an anonymous female factory worker.

You will be responsible for not only analyzing the use of rhetoric in these documents, but you must also create a visual analysis of the text that can be used as a teaching tool, which will provide your classmates and others with all the necessary contextual information to understand your analysis, and a step-by-step walkthrough of your analysis. You will then teach this analysis to the class in small groups – you must be able to answer questions from classmates and create a five question quiz for them to take. Finally, after all groups have been taught the lesson, you will work together as a class to explain the difference between each of the women’ use of rhetoric.

Please click here to access the project assignment sheet and the grading rubric.

Additionally, I’ve copied some texts about the time period if you have trouble pulling enough research for your ‘context’ section of the project. Feel free to use these for you references!

Click to access documents and texts that provide context for the period. 



You all did an amazing job analyzing your assigned texts and presenting your information to the class. Please see the links below to access your classmates’ presentations and notes:

On the Equality of the Sexes Powerpoint 1

Equality of the Sexes Powerpoint 2

Equality of the Sexes Handout

Equality of the Sexes Contextual Information

Lowell Mill Girls Protest Powerpoint 1

Lowell Mill Girls Protest Powerpoint 2

What is the Profession of Women?  Powerpoint 1

What is the Profession of Women? Powerpoint 2