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Ascending the Rostrum: Hannah Mather Crocker and Women’s Political Oratory

Although Hannah Mather Crocker (1752–1829) apparently presented a prescription against women’s political oratory in her Observations on the Real Rights of Women (1818), she provided philosophical and historical challenges to this conventional rule of early nineteenth-century feminine propriety elsewhere in the first American treatise on women’s rights. By analyzing new archival findings of two of her oratorical works from the early 1810s—her 1813 “Fast Sermon” against the War of 1812 and her 1814 “Address” to the advisory board of the School of Industry for poor girls in Boston’s North End—I argue that Crocker also provided a personal challenge to this conventional rule. In philosophically, historically, and personally redefining women’s political oratory as compatible with feminine propriety—during the postrevolutionary backlash against women’s rights—Crocker helped pave the way for the strategic use of the constitutional rights of speech and association in the nineteenth-century American women’s rights movement and beyond.