Scholars of rhetoric and speech communications have suggested that the study of a women's rhetoric should focus on the "distinctly female modes of leadership" that may be found among women in "out-groups" that challenge established political authority. Such leaders must be especially inventive to be effective, and are thus likely to be talented rhetoricians. In looking for such leaders, the religious and political rhetoric of early Latter-day Saint women provides a noteworthy, unique study. Nineteenth-century Mormon women not only battled discriminatory political norms—arguing fervently for both universal woman's suffrage and for the freedom to practice polygamy—they did so from their position as members of a stigmatized and persecuted religious community.
One exemplary figure is Sarah Melissa Granger Kimball (1818-1898). A founding member of the Church's Female Relief Society in 1842, Kimball was later instrumental in reestablishing the organization in Utah. In Salt Lake City she was called to be president of her ward's Relief Society; she served over 40 remarkably influential years in that position, while instituting and organizing programs church-wide. During the same four decades she also served in two General Relief Society presidencies, as a member of the territorial committee of the People's Party, and as a national delegate and President of the Utah Woman's Suffrage Association. Kimball was a leader dedicated to stimulating thought in and provoking action from her Relief Society sisters and her fellow citizens, and she developed her own powerful voice as a communicator.
Kimball used her rhetorical skills and leadership strategies both to "educate and agitate" and to "instruct and happify" her audiences. This thesis is a historiography which examines Kimball's public discourse within its social contexts, analyzing samples of her rhetoric from several different genres: autobiographical sketch; political rally; ceremonial speeches; formal encomium; official minutes from weekly Relief Society meetings; and the text of her own life's actions. These various texts survey the broad range of Kimball's social and spiritual concerns, and showcase her discursive skill among her contemporaries. This textual analysis illustrates the strategies she developed to establish her noted effectiveness as a rhetor and widespread influence as a leader.
College and Department
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Higbee, Janelle M., "President Mrs. Kimball: A Rhetoric of Words and Works" (1998). All Theses and Dissertations. 4788.
Sarah Granger Kimball