Rhetorics of Motherhood

Review by Sarah E. S. Carter

Closing Remarks

"Those who study women but ignore motherhood do so at some peril, for, as Patrice DiQuinzio observes, it permeates culture, society, and politics." (Buchanan, p. 115)

Lindal Buchanan presents Rhetorics of Motherhood at a perfect time for readership. She places a great deal of focus on challenging and confronting gender systems of gender norms, and she makes strong claims throughout the text of the power and weight of language, specifically the god-term Mother and the devil-term Woman. She expresses in her introduction and conclusion that she envisions modifications to dominant discourse (p. 23) and encourages scholarly conversation on the topic (of the rhetoric of motherhood) as well as the integration of women and women's issues into disciplinary histories, theories, and traditions (p. 115).

Buchanan does a lot more than just encourage scholarly conversation with this text. She theorizes a great deal on a subject that is not highly discussed within rhetoric scholarship but should be and concludes by offering justification for her text and suggestions for future scholarship on motherhood and its origins, development, rhetorical incarnations, political ramifications, and implications (p. 124). Her success with this text could lead to future study and discourse on the scholarship of women and mothers throughout history.

While inviting audiences of feminist rhetoric, women and gender studies, archival research, and public memory and discourse to the text of Rhetorics of Motherhood, Buchanan hopes readers will take many things from this text, but above all they will understand that motherhood has the ability to stir strong emotion (p. 116). By offering details of her personal life, outside of her scholarship, and making the choice in her acknowledgements to mention her daughter (p. xxi), Buchanan affords her ethos and an additional lens to the content she delivers.

As she offers rhetorical insight in Rhetorics of Motherhood on the expectations and confines of the Woman/Mother continuum through a feminist lens and explores and examines how, when, and why motherhood works to women's (dis)advantage (p. 5), she presents a purpose for the investigation and inquiry of a new conversation on the separation between women and mothers.

Buchanan has shown readers that "feminist rhetorical research is alive and well" (Schell, 2010, p. 19), and as Jacqueline Jones Royster and Gesa Kirsch (2010) present in Feminist Rhetorical Practices, Buchanan has presented value, in the words, participation, leadership, and legacies of women, specifically Maragaret Sanger, Diane Nash, and Laci Peterson in their known and unknown impact on social and political discourse because of the rhetoric of motherhood that they either chose to use or was chosen for them.


Daniels, Cynthia R. (1993). At women's expense: State power and the politics of fetal rights. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Halloran, Michael. (1982) Aristotle's concept of ethos, or if not his somebody else's. Rhetoric Review, 1 (1), 58–63. doi:10.1080/07350198209359037

Royster, Jacqueline Jones, & Kirsch, Gesa, E. (2012). Feminist rhetorical practices: New horizons for rhetoric, composition, and literacy studies. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.

Schell, Eileen E. (2010). Introduction: Researching feminist rhetorical methods and methodologies. In Eileen E. Schell & K. J. Rawson (Eds.), Rhetorica in motion: Feminist rhetorical methods and methodologies (pp. 1–20). Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press.