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Frances E. W. Harpers Enlightened Motherhood Research Paper

Malala Yousafzai, an advocate for education for women in underdeveloped countries, once said, “The extremists are afraid of books and pens, the power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women. ” (Claire). In the past, women had always been seen as the “weaker class”. A notion was present that women did not have the intellectual ability to learn and process information. Overtime, society has begun to generally accept that women are able to perform the same tasks as men, but this idea of acceptance did not occur overnight. It took many years, and massive feminist movements to unite society and display the great value of women.

During the time period of various minority rights movements in the 1800’s, in “Enlightened Motherhood”, Frances Harper, an African-American activist, promotes the role of women in society, which is shown by the fact that every mother should be a role model to their children, marriage should never split apart because love it pure, and women cannot be neglected. Overall, her use of ethos, pathos, logos and rhetorical devices help secure her claim. Frances E. W. Harper is a notable African American reformer for women’s rights and activist against slavery.

Harper was born in 1825 in Baltimore, Maryland where she was raised by her aunt and uncle, who were abolitionists (Encyclopedia of World Biography). Until the age of thirteen, she attended her uncle’s school, William Watkins Academy for Free Negro Youth (CullenDuPont, Frost-Knappman). In 1850 she left Maryland to become a school teacher in Ohio and Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, Harper became very active in the Underground Railroad, a network of safehouses that blacks used to escape their hard lives of slavery in the American South (Encyclopedia of World Biography).

A law was passed in 1853 which stated that free blacks could become imprisoned or enslaved if they entered the state. She quit teaching and turned her focus on the abolitionist movement when she heard a free black man was thrown in jail after entering Maryland, which was the state he was from (Cullen-DuPont, Frost-knappman). From that moment on, she became a renowned activist for African Americans, women, and abolitionists. In 1892 she presented her speech, “Enlightened Motherhood”, to the Brooklyn Literary Society. She spoke about the need for women in society, and how they must be valued.

Her past and the events she previously endured in her life contribute to the reasoning behind her theme of the speech. Because she grew up in an abolitionist household, she was exposed to different ideas of the time, which were mostly centered around the idea of equality. After the government passed laws restricting the rights of African Americans, she became a strong activist for the equality and rights of African Americans. Growing up in an abolitionist household definitely influenced the life and works of Frances Harper, especially because of the slavery debate during the period of time she lived during

Frances Harper lived in America during the mid to late 1800’s, when the “peculiar institution” of slavery was a constant debate. By the 1850’s, the dominant issue in politics was slavery, which led into violent debates over whether it should be allowed or not (Bates). A minority group of abolitionists emerged in the North, who wanted to immediately abolish slavery in the United States. Eventually, the abolitionist movement became a widespread sectional issue. While the slavery issue prolonged, other minority groups began to seek equality for their rights. Women, both white and black, were one of these minority groups.

In 1837, the Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women was held in New York City. At this convention, women of both races agreed on political ideas, and even attempted to gain one million signatures to petition the abolition of slavery (Senker). Frances Harper gave her speech, “Enlightened Motherhood”, in the late 1800’s in front of the Brooklyn Literary Society. This was during the period of time when equality movements for African Americans and women were emerging. The ideas circulating at the time affected her purpose of the speech, which was to encourage women to take up a new role in society than what was previously expected of them.

Harper’s speech carries a demanding tone, which helps stress her purpose for giving the speech. Harper states, “… the home is an institution older than the church and antedates schools, and that is the place where children should be trained for useful citizenship on earth… ” (Harper). She is demanding in her speech because she is telling her audience where children should be educated. Throughout the speech, Harper uses various other rhetorical elements to help display her message. At the beginning of her speech, “Enlightened Motherhood”, Harper emphasizes that every mother should be a role model for their children.

The beginning section of her speech lays out her tone for the rest of the speech, and helps support her overall thesis. An example of ethos in the speech is, “It is nearly thirty years since an emancipated people stood on the threshold of a new era, facing an uncertain future” (Harper). This shows that Harper is a credible person who is educated by alluding to the Emancipation Proclamation. It also helps the audience establish that Harper knows what she is talking about. As Harper continues her speech, she uses rhetorical devices to help further her claim.

Harper proclaims, “As marriages is the mother of homes, it is important that the duties and responsibilities of this relation should be understood before it is entered… ” (Harper). The useage of a metaphor calling a marriage “the mother of homes” helps to further add to the claim of the speech by giving examples of relationships in a household that are prompted by a mother figure. Another rhetorical device that is used is the repetition of the word “we may” in Harper’s speech. Harper states, “We may be versed in ancient lore and modern learning… We may understand the laws of stratification…

We may be able to tell the story of departed nations… ” (Harper). The repetition of the words “we may” helps create an emotional connection between the audience and Harper because she is using the word “we” to make the audience feel as if Harper was talking to them. The repetition of this phrase helps to further establish the claim made by Harper, that women should be a role model for the younger generations. Harper further establishes her claim in the middle section of her speech. In the middle of the speech, Harper focuses on the idea that marriage should never split apart because love is true and pure.

The purpose of this section helps further develop Harper’s main thesis of her speech. Harper establishes an emotional connection with her audience by using pathos. She uses pathos by saying, “God has trusted her with a child, and it is her privilege to help that child develop the most precious thing a man or woman can possess on earth, and that is a good character” (Harper). By mentioning God giving a person a child, this emotionally and spiritually connects with the audience due to its religious aspect. The audience at the time were during the period of the Second Great Awakening in America, when religion was revived and increased.

When people who had been spiritually affected by the Second Great Awakening heard the “Enlightened Motherhood” speech, the pathos of religious connection could have stirred an emotional feeling inside of them to realize Harper’s purpose of the speech. A rhetorical device used by Harper is parallelism. She states, “Moth may devour our finest garments, fire may consume and floods destroy our fairest homes, rust may gather on our silver and tarnish our gold… ” (Harper). Harper uses parallelism in the example by giving 3 examples of something that can destroy a nice item that a person possess.

Her use of parallelism helps use a similar pattern to develop her overall claim and create a memorable connection between items to establish her firm position. Another example of a rhetorical device used is when Harper says, “If it be folly for a merchant to send an argosy, laden with the richest treasures, at midnight on a moonless sea, without a rudder, compass, or guide… ” (Harper). This example of irony helps further Harper’s idea to prove her point by showing how ironic it is to send a merchant out to sea without direction, and therefore it is ironic to not have true love in a marriage.

Colleen O’Brien, an author, said in African American Review, “Harper’s thinking on citizenship, race, and the promise of the American republic, [gives people] a rich field from which to reap the full breadth of her ideas” (O’Brien). From O’Brien’s point of view, she see’s Harper as a person who is a great thinker with great ideas. Harper finalizes her display of her claim in the end of her speech. At the conclusion of the speech, Harper ends with the claim that women and their wisdom cannot be neglected. In her speech, Harper numerously refers to “mothers” and how they need to help society.

Harper is referring to all women when she uses the term “mothers”. She uses logos at the end of her speech when she says, “… then enlighten your women, so that they may be able to bless their homes by the purity of their lives, the tenderness of their hearts, and the strength of their intellects” (Harper). This is an example of logos because Harper is saying that women need to be educated, and then she lists logical reasons as to why people would benefit from women being educated. This helps contribute to her overall thesis because saying that women need to be more involved in society.

A rhetorical device used in the speech is when Harper states, “… we may rest assured that this acquirement will go with us through the valley and shadow of death, only to grow lighter and brighter through the eternities” (Harper). This shows symbolism because Harper is saying that the idea of women incorporated in society will become stronger and more prominent as time goes on. By saying “lighter and brighter”, Harper gives an optimistic tone and uses the symbolic use of light to show that she thinks that omen will gain respect overtime. Another rhetorical device that is used is when Harper says, “” … the withered leaf of November from the glowing green of May… ” (Harper). The use of the archetypes helps establish a symbolic meaning. The withered leaf of November is dead, but the glowing green of May is alive and rejuvenated just like the idea of Enlightened Motherhood. Harper utilizes the use of symbolism to further her claim in the speech. In the speech, “Enlightened Motherhood”, Frances Harper promotes the role of women in society.

She shows this by displaying the fact that every mother should be a role model to their children, marriage should never split apart because love it pure, and women cannot be neglected. Overall, her use of ethos, pathos, logos and rhetorical devices help secure her claim that it is necessary to have women and their ideas incorporated into society. Even though they lived during different periods of time, Frances Harper and Malala Yousafzai share the similar idea that women should be educated even though the idea of it may differ from societies regular standards.

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