2017 SCoR Seminar at SSCA, Greenville, SC

Joseph Emerson Brown's Address Opposing Women's Suffrage, United States Senate, January 25, 1887

‘A Woman’s Place,’ With Love from South Carolina, Joseph E. Brown
Brandon Inabinet of Furman University planned a SCoR seminar for the 2017 meeting of SCA in Greenville, SC focused on an 1887 speech by South Carolina Senator Joseph Emerson Brown, given in the US Senate in opposition to women's suffrage. The session slot was provide by the Rhetoric and Public Address Division and was well attended. The discussion was animated and enthusiastic, suggesting that there may still be life in some of the dusty old texts we've not looked at for years. Here is Professor Inabinet's framing for the seminar:

Women’s suffrage only made the Senate floor once in the nineteenth century, in 1887. It was fitting that the opposition, against Susan B. Anthony’s testimony, was led by a man born locally, in Pickens, South Carolina, Joseph Emerson Brown. In his speech “Against the Women’s Suffrage Amendment,” as printed in Wrage and Baskerville’s American Forum: Speeches on Historic Issues, 1788-1900,* Brown uses all of the standard topoi of the era to deny a woman like Anthony her standing, her voice, and her argument.

This year’s Southern Colloquium on Rhetoric SSCA seminar uses the occasion of our meeting in Greenville, SC, to take up this more obscure text from South Carolina’s most infamous century. Though South Carolina's first female governor has left her post to become the US Ambassador to the United Nations, our meeting in Greenville is a good opportunity to remember a voice from South Carolina's part, a voice reflecting views widely held in the 19th century on the place of women in American society. Quite serendipitously, we meet to have this discussion just weeks after Nevada became the first state since 1982 to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, suggesting that the arguments made by Brown are still very much with us.

A distinguished panel of experts in women’s suffrage, gender politics, nineteenth-century culture, and regional history will take up this text with brief position statements to spur a conversation. All are invited to participate. As with all good seminars, our SCoR/SSCA meetings are best when everyone has done the reading and comes prepared to join the discussion.

Chair: James Darsey, Georgia State University


Ann Burnette, Texas State University
Brandon Inabinet, Furman University
Paul Stob, Vanderbilt University
Sandra J. Sarkela, The University of Memphis

* Wrage and Baskerville abbreviate Brown's speech in ways consistent with their notion that public address is a history of ideas, that what is most important in a speech are its key claims along with supporting reasons.
The most significant sections omitted in Wrage and Baskerville include one where Brown argues that if women are given the vote, the pure and upstanding women will be forced into politics in order to offset the influence of the base women who will rush to the opportunity to take pleasure in the mixed crowds at the polls and another section where Brown connects the idea of separate spheres to the obligation of women to bear children as part of the natural order. Brown disparages "old maids" and "a class which we shrink from naming" [lesbians?] as running counter to the natural order. In this latter section especially, there is much talk of purity, chastity, and duty. A full text of the speech is available at http://www.gutenberg.org/files/11114/11114-h/11114-h.htm Scroll to the beginning of the second day of the deliberations, January 25, 1887. Joseph Emerson Brown is the first speaker of the day.