From private to public life: Rhetoric of first ladies in their first year

2005 2005

Other formats: Order a copy

Abstract (summary)

Due to the recent increase of interest in the first ladies as discussed by Burke (1987), Truman (1995), and Wertheimer (2004), scholars are discovering that the lives of these White House sorority members were filled with responsibilities beyond those social in nature. These obligations have involved persuasive campaigns over the entire 20th century such as the “war on drugs,” the beautification of America and the White House, and the fight for human rights for women and children worldwide. Furthermore, these duties were not simply developments found recently in the 20th century, but were even common among the ladies of the early 1900s.

A rhetorical examination of the 20th century first ladies provides a compass to scrutinize the form and function of speeches delivered by first ladies in the modern era. By examining speeches by selected first ladies through the process of generic description, we can determine their common rhetorical strategies, the differences in their strategies, a pattern of common themes that emerge in their rhetoric, and a justification of a critical genre of first ladies' rhetoric over the course of their first year.

A pattern of common themes emerged in the first ladies' rhetoric, common rhetorical strategies were illuminated, the few differences in their strategies were identified, and a justification of a critical genre of first ladies' rhetoric in their first year was made. Specifically, common themes such as mission oriented speeches, political remarks, addresses on social issues, remarks regarding White House issues and other such subjects emerged. The examination of these artifacts distinguished similarities in rhetorical style in terms of time of year, rhetorical situation, emergent themes, and modes of delivery. Although the first ladies' artifacts did generate some differences, they did not exceed the bonds or boundaries of the genre. Finally, this study justified this period of first ladies' rhetoric as a genre by following the steps of criticism developed by Foss (1989) as well as Campbell and Jamieson (1978).

Indexing (details)

0459: Communication
Identifier / keyword
Communication and the arts; First ladies; Political communication; Rhetoric
From private to public life: Rhetoric of first ladies in their first year
Knight, Misty Lynn Ellis
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 66/06, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
9780542202292, 0542202298
Meyer, John C.
The University of Southern Mississippi
University location
United States -- Mississippi
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
Access the complete full text

You can get the full text of this document if it is part of your institution's ProQuest subscription.

Try one of the following:

  • Connect to ProQuest through your library network and search for the document from there.
  • Request the document from your library.
  • Go to the ProQuest login page and enter a ProQuest or My Research username / password.