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A Feminist Legacy

The Rhetoric and Pedagogy of Gertrue Buck

Suzanne Bordelon

Publication Year: 2009

The first book-length investigation of a pioneering English professor and theorist at Vassar College, A Feminist Legacy:  The Rhetoric and Pedagogy of Gertrude Buck explores Buck’s contribution to the fields of education and rhetoric during the Progressive Era.

Published by: Southern Illinois University Press

Other Books in the Studies in Rhetorics and Feminisms Series

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pp. i-iii

Book Title

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pp. iv


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pp. v-vii


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pp. viii-ix


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pp. xi-x

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pp. xiii-xv

Many people have helped make this book a published, hard-copy reality. I am fortunate to have wonderful colleagues and friends in San Diego. Glen McClish and Jacqueline Bacon have been extremely generous in reading various versions, providing advice, and encouraging my efforts. Ellen Quandahl also has provided support and perceptive feedback. My friends outside of San Diego have been equally helpful. I am particularly grateful to Lisa Mastrangelo for her knowledge of...

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pp. 1-12

I was first drawn to the writing of Gertrude Buck (1871–1922) while studying nineteenth-century rhetoric in graduate school during the mid- 1990s.1 In this course, we had the opportunity to examine nineteenth-century rhetoric textbooks from the library’s abundant collection. I was attracted to the work of Buck, a teacher and textbook writer at Vassar College during the early decades of the twentieth century, because I was impressed by her emphasis on inclusiveness and...

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1. Buck’s “Social” View of Ethics and Rhetoric

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pp. 13-40

Allthough Gertrude Buck drafted these lines for her poem “The Complaint of Youth,” her words also capture her life. Buck lived only fifty years, but she did, indeed, seem to enter through as many of life’s doors as she could. A talented English professor and theorist at Vassar College during the Progressive Era, Buck has left a significant feminist legacy as a woman, teacher, rhetorician, administrator, and...

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2. Progressive Education, Feminism, and the Detroit Normal Training School

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pp. 41-71

Buck began her professional career not at an elite institution but at the Detroit Normal Training School working with Harriet M. Scott, the school’s principal and the older sister of Fred Newton Scott. Buck further developed her progressive ideas by coauthoring a textbook for teachers of primary and secondary grades with Harriet Scott. Unlike composition, which drew on the rhetorical tradition, normal...

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3. The “Advance” toward Democratic Administration

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pp. 72-92

In addition to her work with Harriet Maria Scott, Gertrude Buck’s life at Vassar with Laura Johnson Wylie profoundly influenced her view of rhetoric and pedagogy. A key aspect of Buck’s and Wylie’s professional lives was their application of feminist principles not only to the classroom but also to the administrative domain. As scholars...

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4. The Suffrage Movement and Buck’s Approach to Argument and Debate

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pp. 93-122

The democratic ideals that were central to Gertrude Buck’s feminism and her approach to administration and pedagogy were integral to her view of argument and debate. Buck believed democracy was an achievable ideal and that the goal of education was to prepare individuals to participate in democracy. Throughout her work, she resisted late-nineteenth-century mechanical and patriarchal approaches to rhetorical theory by presenting an alternate view of rhetoric and the individual.

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5. The Little Theater Movement and Buck’s Democratized View of Drama

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pp. 123-152

During the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of Vassar College in 1915, Vassar presented the Pageant of Athena, which “represented the weaving of a web of noble women by the maidens of Athena; each scene depicting an incident from the life of some typically great woman, and covering the period from the early days of Greece to the 16th century” (“Christening of the Outdoor Theater” 1). Women honored in the performance included Sappho, Hortensia, the Abbess...

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6. Socially Conscious Women Teaching Writing

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pp. 153-193

Gertrude Buck’s work in argumentation and debate complicates claims that with the entrance of women into higher education, the teaching of rhetoric shifted from an oral, agonistic discipline to a “less contestive and more interiorized, even personalized” field (Connors, Composition-Rhetoric 66). This argument can also be made more complex by examining the efforts of Mary Yost (1881–1954) and Helen Drusilla Lockwood (1891–1971), two students of Buck and Wylie’s. Yost, like...


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pp. 195-212

Works Cited

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pp. 213-232


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pp. 233-241

Author Bio

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pp. 242

Series Statement

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pp. 243

E-ISBN-13: 9780809386512
E-ISBN-10: 0809386518
Print-ISBN-13: 9780809328994
Print-ISBN-10: 0809328992

Page Count: 270
Illustrations: 15 b/w halftones
Publication Year: 2009