Shirley Chisholm Speech Analysis Essay

“Is It a Crime for a Citizen of the United States to Vote?” Speech, 1873, by Susan B. Anthony (Excerpt)


After her arrest on charges of voting illegally in the 1872 federal election, Susan B. Anthony undertook an exhaustive speaking tour of all twenty-nine of the towns and villages of Monroe county, and twenty-one towns of Ontario county.  The title for her lecture was "Is it a Crime for a Citizen of the United States to Vote?"  Her speaking tour was effective enough in winning support for her position that the prosecution sought and obtained an order transferring her trial to the United States Circuit Court at Canandaigua, where it was believed fewer potential jurors would be prejudiced in her favor.


Friends and Fellow-citizens: I stand before you to-night, under indictment for the alleged crime of having voted at the last Presidential election, without having a lawful right to vote. It shall be my work this evening to prove to you that in thus voting, I not only committed no crime, but, instead, simply exercised my citizen's right, guaranteed to me and all United States citizens by the National Constitution, beyond the power of any State to deny.


Our democratic-republican government is based on the idea of the natural right of every individual member thereof to a voice and a vote in making and executing the laws. We assert the province of government to be to secure the people in the enjoyment of their unalienable rights. We throw to the winds the old dogma that governments can give rights. Before governments were organized, no one denies that each individual possessed the right to protect his own life. liberty and property. And when 100 or 1,000,000 people enter into a free government, they do not barter away their natural rights; they simply pledge themselves to protect each other in the enjoyment of them, through prescribed judicial and legislative tribunals. They agree to abandon the methods of brute force in the adjustment of their differences, and adopt those of civilization.


Nor can you find a word in any of the grand documents left us by the fathers that assumes for government the power to create or to confer rights. The Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, the constitutions of the several states and the organic laws of the territories, all alike propose to protect the people in the exercise of their God-given rights. Not one of them pretends to bestow rights.


"All men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. Among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."


Here is no shadow of government authority over rights, nor exclusion of any from their full and equal enjoyment. Here is pronounced the right of all men, and "consequently," as the Quaker preacher said, "of all women," to a voice in the government. And here, in this very first paragraph of the declaration, is the assertion of the natural right of all to the ballot; for, how can "the consent of the governed" be given, if the right to vote be denied. Again:


"That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundations on such principles, and organizing its powers in such forms as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness."


Surely, the right of the whole people to vote is here clearly implied. For however destructive in their happiness this government might become, a disfranchised class could neither alter nor abolish it, nor institute a new one, except by the old brute force method of insurrection and rebellion. One-half of the people of this nation to-day are utterly powerless to blot from the statute books an unjust law, or to write there a new and a just one. The women, dissatisfied as they are with this form of government, that enforces taxation without representation, — that compels them to obey laws to which they have never given their consent — that imprisons and hangs them without a trial by a jury of their peers, that robs them, in marriage, of the custody of their own persons, wages and children,-are this half of the people left wholly at the mercy of the other half, in direct violation of the spirit and letter of the declarations of the framers of this government, every one of which was based on the immutable principle of equal rights to all. By those declarations, kings, priests, popes, aristocrats, were all alike dethroned, and placed on a common level politically, with the lowliest born subject or serf. By them, too, me, as such, were deprived of their divine right to rule, and placed on a political level with women. By the practice of those declarations all class and caste distinction will be abolished; and slave, serf, plebeian, wife, woman, all alike, bound from their subject position to the proud platform of equality.


The preamble of the federal constitution says:


"We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and established this constitution for the United States of America."


It was we, the people, not we, the white male citizens, nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed this Union. And we formed it, not to give the blessings or liberty, but to secure them; not to the half of ourselves and the half of our posterity, but to the whole people-women as well as men. And it is downright mockery to talk to women of their enjoyment of the blessings of liberty while they are denied the use of the only means of securing them provided by this democratic-republican government — the ballot.


The early journals of Congress show that when the committee reported to that body the original articles of confederation, the very first article which became the subject of discussion was that respecting equality of suffrage. Article 4th said:  "The better to secure and perpetuate mutual friendship and intercourse between the people of the different States of this Union, the free inhabitants of each of the States, (paupers, vagabonds and fugitives from justice excepted) shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of the free citizens of the several States."


Thus, at the very beginning, did the fathers see the necessity of the universal application of the great principle of equal rights to all-in order to produce the desired result-a harmonious union and a homogeneous people.




Equal Rights For Women Summary



          "Equal Rights      For      Women" Summary
         In her 1969 "Equal Rights for Women" speech, Shirley Chisholm addressed a reluctant Congress, and brought to light the parallels between racial discrimination and unequal workplace representation that women faced in the United States.      She initiated her appeal by explaining that women are thought of as incapable, and questioned the gender stereotypes by asking why it is "acceptable for women to be secretaries, librarians, and teachers," but not to hold positions of high rank.      Such a combative start to her argument served to relay a sense of      exigence      to a closed-minded male audience that did not agree with the issues she was presenting.      She continued the argument      against     of      workplace inequality by presenting distressing statistics; "although there are 3  million more women than men in America, they hold only two percent of managerial positions, two percent of Congressional seats, and have no representation on the Supreme Court or in the Cabinet."       Chisholm went on to explain the discrimination that she experienced throughout her life for being a black woman, and emphasized that she felt more ostracized for being female than for the color of her skin. Through these statements, Chisholm drew a connection between race and gender which ultimately strengthened her argument.      She concluded that, if the Civil Rights movement was able to gain such momentum, Second Wave Feminism could have such potential as well. She spent the latter part of her speech proposing an Equal Rights Amendment by forming counter-arguments and refuting them;      one counter-argument being that women are already protected under the law and don't need legislation, and the second being that passing the amendment would eliminate legislation giving special protection to women and throw the marriage and divorce laws into chaos.      Through statistical evidence, parallels to similar movements, and a prepared defense strategy, Shirley Chisholm successfully argued for an Equal Rights Amendment.

    Audience analysis:
    The audience of this summary is English 101 students,      which is     who are      mostly freshmen in college.  Due to the young age of the audience, it is important that this summary is concise, but still informative about Shirley Chisholm's "Equal Rights for Women" speech.  Her address to Congress was a crucial stepping stone in the fight for equal rights for women, and the movement she helped lead shaped what our world is today.  Many students are not very familiar with Chisholm and her effect on the movement, so the objective of this summary is to highlight her beliefs and style in a way that gives students a general understanding of who she was, not only as a leader of a movement, but as a woman.  
Hey guys! Really nice work here. I think you're showing some major strengths in this summary.
First, you've managed to do something most groups either didn't attempt or didn't achieve. You've addressed the resonance and power of Chisholm's speech without editorializing (meaning adding your own opinions or arguments). That's really sophisticated stuff! I did note one place where you moved into that kind of editorializing, so check that out.

Second, your sentence level writing is mostly quite precise. You use high level diction, without often being too florid or overwrought. That's an important skill in terms of being understood. Bright writers often get caught up in complexity for complexity's sake. You haven't fallen into that trapthis simple and clear to read, and that is important.  See notes for places to further hone that.

Third, you wrote a thesis that encapsulated (and showed you "got") the speech's major ideas. And you followed that thesis through to the end.
Very nice work! Keep it up and see my marginal notes for changes!-CB

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Related Topics

FeminismGender studiesCounterculture of the 1960sWomens rightsGenderSocial statusAfrican-American women in politicsShirley ChisholmFeminist movements and ideologiesEqual Rights AmendmentDiscriminationSecond-wave feminism

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