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Activist Rhetorics and American Higher Education, 1885-1937

Activist Rhetorics and American Higher Education, 1885-1937

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Susan Kates


Hardcover (Other formats: E-book)
176 pages, 6 x 9, 9 illustrations


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About the Book

In this study of the history of rhetoric education, Susan Kates focuses on the writing and speaking instruction developed at three academic institutions founded to serve three groups of students most often excluded from traditional institutions of higher education in late-nineteenth-and early-twentieth-century America: white middle-class women, African Americans, and members of the working class.

Kates provides a detailed look at the work of those students and teachers ostracized from rhetorical study at traditional colleges and universities. She explores the pedagogies of educators Mary Augusta Jordan of Smith College in Northhampton, Massachusetts; Hallie Quinn Brown of Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio; and Josephine Colby, Helen Norton, and Louise Budenz of Brookwood Labor College in Katonah, New York.

These teachers sought to enact forms of writing and speaking instruction incorporating social and political concerns in the very essence of their pedagogies. They designed rhetoric courses characterized by three important pedagogical features: a profound respect for and awareness of the relationship between language and identity and a desire to integrate this awareness into the curriculum; politicized writing and speaking assignments designed to help students interrogate their marginalized standing within the larger culture in terms of their gender, race, or social class; and an emphasis on service and social responsibility.


Susan Kates is an assistant professor of English and women's studies at the University of Oklahoma.


“Kates’s definition of ‘activist rhetoric’ provides a much-needed foundation for further study and development of this important pedagogical concept.”—Karyn Hollis, Villanova University