The ideological and political objectives of the Women’s Movement after the Civil War inspired numerous of women to raise their voices and work toward social reforms, broad-based economic and political equality and the right to vote. In November 1917, Head of the National Women Suffrage Association, Carrie Chapman Catt delivered a speech to members of Congress demanding that they recognize women suffrage and insisted they vote the pass of the amendment. Catt’s address was based on facts (ethos) from our country’s history, reasoning and logic (logos). Her tone throughout the speech was firm and convincing that the matter was urgent and she appealed to their emotions using pathos to encourage them to purse the cause. Through the use of various rhetorical elements of speech Catt presented a successful argument to the members of Congress highlighting obstacles women faced and why they must grant women suffrage; which made it very difficult for any man to argue with.
Carrie Catt’s relied on her position as the head of a national women’s rights organization to show ethos and convince the audience by providing a sense of credibility and authority of a persuader. Her argument was logical; women should be allowed to vote. She appeals to reason by the use of logos throughout the essay. Catt begins by discussing the past history of the United States and its founding principles that led to the American Revolution:
“Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.” The Colonists won, and the nation which was established as a result of their victory has held unfailing that these two fundamental principles of democratic government are not only the spiritual source of our national existence but have been our chief historic pride and at all times the sheet anchor of our liberties. (Catt 1)
In explaining her reasoning, she also uses facts from past presidents such as Lincoln and Wilson to explain the essence of democracy and argues America has lived by their words but they have hardly exercised them. In doing so she exposes how the nations had continuously ignored the advancement of women in education, law and medicine.
Other than ethos and logos, Catt ensures that she invokes the emotional side of the audience through her utilization of pathos. She uses different elements of speech and rhetorical questions to create a sense of guilt and urgency. This ensures that the audience remains focus her views on women’s suffrage. For example, when Catt states:
There are women, too, with “slave souls” and “clinging vines” for backbones. There are female dolls and male dandies. But the world does not wait for such as these, nor does liberty pause to heed the plaint of men and women with a grouch. She does not wait for those who have a special interest to serve, nor a selfish reason for depriving other people of freedom. Holding her torch aloft, liberty is pointing the way onward and upward and saying to America, “Come.” (Catt 3)
Here, the audience has to synthesizing the discerning truth.
In conclusion, Carrie Chapman Catt provides a successful speech that meets all the standards required to appeal to the members of Congress. She concluded her speech with a bold question. “Women suffrage is coming-you know it. Will you, Honorable Senators and Members of the House of Representatives, help or hinder it? “(Catt 4). Catt’s firm tone, use of facts and rhetorical questions illustrates her point of view perfectly; Women contain the mental capacity to make sound judgments in political elections. There is no doubt that this speech assisted in the development of the Nineteenth Amendment granting women the right to vote.