In her speech “On Women's Right to Vote,” Susan B. Anthony uses several rhetorical devices. She begins by setting forth her position quite clearly. She has not committed a crime by voting in the presidential election; she has merely exercised her rights as a citizen, rights she possess...
In her speech “On Women's Right to Vote,” Susan B. Anthony uses several rhetorical devices. She begins by setting forth her position quite clearly. She has not committed a crime by voting in the presidential election; she has merely exercised her rights as a citizen, rights she possess under the Constitution. This straightforward presentation is an appeal to logos, to the audience's logic and reason. However, it also probably contains an element of surprise for at least some members of her audience. Anthony claims her right to vote even though such was denied to women.
Anthony then quotes the Constitution and again uses logos. The document says “we, the people” not “we, the white male citizens.” This contrast is striking, and Anthony draws it out, contrasting male citizens to the whole people, the notions of giving versus securing the “blessings of liberty,” and the idea of half versus whole.
The speaker next moves on to appeal to her audience's sense of ethos. For states to deny the vote simply on the basis of a person's sex, she claims, is to withhold the blessings of liberty forever “from women and their female posterity.” This is not right. It goes directly against the constitution, and the audience should be morally appalled by such action. Women are, she claims, deprived of their right of “the consent of the governed.”
Anthony's next section uses repetition to great effect. Women, she maintains, do not live in a democracy or a republic, but rather an “odious aristocracy” and a “hateful oligarchy of sex.” She repeats the words “aristocracy” and especially “oligarchy” for added emphasis and again uses contrast to talk about different kinds of oligarchies. While they are all negative, the one at work in America is worse than them all. She appeals to both ethos and pathos as she describes this oligarchy of sex as making “father, brothers, husband, son” into “oligarchs over the mother and sisters, the wife and daughters, of every household.” Notice the parallelism here as well as the contrast. These families are split along male and female lines, and Anthony's language rises to rhetorical heights of hyperbole when she declares that this system “ordains all men sovereigns, all women subjects” and “carries dissension, discord, and rebellion into every home in the nation.” This isn't, of course, literally true, but it is effective rhetoric.
Anthony ends her speech with a rhetorical question: “Are women persons?” Even her opponents, she says, would answer in the affirmative. Therefore, a simple syllogism applies. If women are persons, they are citizens. If citizens cannot be denied the right to vote, then women cannot be denied the right to vote either.