Debating Women cover
Debating Women
Gender, Education, and Spaces for Argument, 1835-1945
Spanning a historical period that begins with women’s exclusion from university debates and continues through their participation in coeducational intercollegiate competitions, Debating Women highlights the crucial role that debating organizations played as women sought to access the fruits of higher education in the United States and United Kingdom. Despite various obstacles, women transformed forests, parlors, dining rooms, ocean liners, classrooms, auditoriums, and prisons into vibrant spaces for ritual argument. There, they not only learned to speak eloquently and argue persuasively but also used debate to establish a legacy, explore difference, engage in intercultural encounter, and articulate themselves as citizens. These debaters engaged with the issues of the day, often performing, questioning, and occasionally refining norms of gender, race, class, and nation. In tracing their involvement in an activity at the heart of civic culture, Woods demonstrates that debating women have much to teach us about the ongoing potential for debate to move arguments, ideas, and people to new spaces.
Publication Date: October 1st, 2018
338 pages| 6 in x 9 in
CARLY S. WOODS is Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication and affiliate faculty in the Department of Women's Studies at the University of Maryland.  

Early Praise

Debating Women is essential reading! In forests and parlors, classrooms and dining rooms, ocean liners and auditoriums, intrepid women in the United States and the United Kingdom made places to develop and practice the skills of debate. Packed with fascinating stories, Woods’s book unearths a dynamic tradition and invites contemporary responses to its legacy.”
Angela G. Ray, Associate Professor, Communication Studies, Northwestern University, and author of The Lyceum and Public Culture in the Nineteenth-Century United States
“Woods takes seriously the claim that debating is valuable civic education, and she pushes back against the widespread belief that this opportunity was not meaningfully available to women until very recently. While there remain significant differences in participation rates between men and women, as well as significant gender stereotypes, readers can take heart from Woods’s four thoroughly researched and fascinating case studies showing how debating women between 1835 and 1945, often in the face of adverse gender prejudices, availed themselves of educational debate in order to prepare for life in the public sphere.”
David Zarefsky, Owen L. Coon Professor Emeritus of Communication Studies, Northwestern University, and author of Lincoln, Douglas, and Slavery: In the Crucible of Public Debate
Debating Women sets a new standard for historical explorations of argumentation. The careful archival work in this volume allows us to listen in to how participants in these settings actually argued, not just how they meant to argue. Well-written and focused on meaning as well as detail, this book is more than a history: it is an intervention that challenges decisively our assumptions about the universality of argument. This volume needs to be engaged by every theorist and practitioner of argumentation and debate.”
William Keith, Professor, College of Letters & Science, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, and author of Democracy as Discussion: The American Forum Movement and Adult Civic Education


Book AwardDaniel Rohrer Memorial Outstanding Research Award (American Forensic Association)
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