The Silence of Modern Suffrage Print Culture
This chapter examines how, rather than insert themselves unproblematically into a male oratorical tradition that risked “masculinizing” them, some middle- and upper-class U.S. suffragists deployed silent stunts that strategically drew on familiar, and therefore nonthreatening, bodily rhetorical traditions of nineteenth-century women’s culture. These modern silent spectacles found their origins in a nineteenth-century domestic ideology that defined Woman as a silent moral influence and, more specifically, in the nineteenth-century sentimental theatrical tradition that used immobile and silent women to model and inspire virtuous behavior. This chapter reads three of the most popular and persuasive genres of silent suffrage spectacles—tableaux, “voiceless speeches,” and textual banners carried by suffrage activists who called themselves “silent sentinels”—not only as manifestations of modernist suffrage spectacle but also as a kind of protomodernist suffrage print culture.
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