Complete Story

SKINNER, Carolyn

Summer 2009, 39:3, pages 240 - 259

"She Will Have Science": Ethos and Audience in Mary Gove's Lectures to Ladies


In 1838, Mary Gove (Nichols) began lecturing on anatomy and physiology, a rhetorical act that was both new and risky because public discussion of the human body and disease was believed inappropriate for women. In order to protect her ethos, Gove used her ostensibly informative lectures to promote her reform agenda, by implying that her audience already shared her beliefs in women's right to physiological knowledge and their obligation to use that knowledge to reform society. Rather than relying only on the conventional advice to construct one's ethos based on the audience's existing values, Gove also crafted her audience's ethos, describing her listeners in ways that emphasized values conducive to her reform agenda. Her use of this strategy suggests that an audience's acceptance of nontraditional speakers is not simply a matter of "letting" them speak; it also means, to some degree, acknowledging the alternative values they represent.

Printer-Friendly Version