A GENRE OF DEFENSE: HYBRIDITY IN NINETEENTH-CENTURY WOMEN'S DEFENSES OF WOMEN'S PREACHING
Zimmerelli, Lisa Dawn
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This dissertation explores how nineteenth-century Protestant women negotiated genre in order to manage more effectively the controversial rhetorical project of defending women's right to preach. After providing a comprehensive overview of the debate of women's preaching in America, this project presents a genre study of a subset of these defenses: those women who do not adhere strictly to their "home" genres, but rather demonstrate a range of generic blending and manipulation in their defenses of women's preaching. This study further reads religion as an integral identity category that was the seat for other activist rhetorics; by extension, then, women's defenses of women's preaching is an important site of activism and rhetorical discourse. Foote, Willard, and Woosley are rhetoricians and theologians; the hybrid form of their books provides them with a textual space for the intersections of their rhetoric and theology. This study examines three books within the tradition of defenses of women's preaching--Julia Foote's A Brand Plucked from the Fire (1879), Frances Willard's Woman in the Pulpit (1888), and Louisa Woosley's Shall Woman Preach? (1891)--as representative of the journey a genre takes from early adaptation to solidification, what Carolyn Miller calls "typified rhetorical action" (151) and as the containers for an egalitarian theology. Foote adapts the genre of spiritual autobiography to include the oral and textual discourses of letters, sermons, and hymn in order to present her holiness theology. Willard experiments with the epistolary genre in order to present her Social Gospel theology. Woosley includes all of the genres of defenses of women's preaching: sermon, spiritual autobiography, editorial letter, and speech; she also appropriates Masonic rhetoric in order to merge the defense of women's preaching with another kind of defense prevalent at the time: the scriptural defense of women. Significantly, each woman resolves "separate spheres" ideology by suggesting a new religious sphere where men and women participate equally: Foote's sphere is the sphere of holiness; Willard's is her reconceptualized Kingdom of God; and Woosley's is a world of action, where men and women, after ritualized initiation, are responsible for building the temple of God.