cover of book

Rhetorical Education in Turn-of-the-Century U.S. Women's Journalism
by Grace Wetzel
foreword by Shari J. Stenberg
Southern Illinois University Press, 2022
Paper: 978-0-8093-3867-2 | eISBN: 978-0-8093-3868-9
Library of Congress Classification PN4888.W66W488 2023
Dewey Decimal Classification 071.3082

Examining the rhetorical and pedagogical work of three turn-of-the-century newspaperwomen

At the end of the nineteenth century, newspapers powerfully shaped the U.S. reading public, fostering widespread literacy development and facilitating rhetorical education. With new opportunities to engage audiences, female journalists repurposed the masculine tradition of journalistic writing by bringing together intimate forms of rhetoric and pedagogy to create innovative new dialogues. Rhetorical Education in Turn-of-the-Century U.S. Women’s Journalism illuminates the pedagogical contributions of three newspaperwomen to show how the field became a dynamic site of public participation, relationship building, education, and activism in the 1880s and 1890s.

Grace Wetzel introduces us to the work of Omaha correspondent Susette La Flesche Tibbles (Inshta Theamba), African American newspaper columnist Gertrude Bustill Mossell, and white middle-class reporter Winifred Black (“Annie Laurie”). Journalists by trade, these three writers made the mass-circulating newspaper their site of teaching and social action, inviting their audiences and communities—especially systematically marginalized voices—to speak, write, and teach alongside them.

Situating these journalists within their own specific writing contexts and personas, Wetzel reveals how Mossell promoted literacy learning and community investment among African American women through a reader-centered pedagogy; La Flesche modeled relational news research and reporting as a survivance practice while reporting for the Omaha Morning World-Herald at the time of the Wounded Knee Massacre; and Black inspired public writing and activism among children from different socioeconomic classes through her “Little Jim” story. The teachings of these figures serve as enduring examples of how we can engage in meaningful public literacy and ethical journalism.
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