Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design

Committee Chair/Advisor

David Blakesley

Committee Member

Cynthia Haynes

Committee Member

Rebecca Shimoni Stoil

Committee Member

Ann George


Women’s contributions to the world are mostly absent from the traditional historical narrative. Who is anonymous and what is invisible often proves challenging and difficult to imagine. We build our understanding of possibilities from what we learn, read, and see. Half of the world’s population accounting for less than one-fifth of historical narratives indicates a liminal chasm; notable people are missing from history. Time marches on, and if the contributions of historically marginalized people continue to be silenced, their contributions will continue to be invisible and unvalued. Histories and herstories are not neutral accounts. Even though most histories are partial, there are many that deserve being heard by the world, yet they have been silenced, forgotten, or simply overlooked.

The narratives of the women who surrounded Kenneth Burke will help bring one of these stories, and KB’s full story, to light. While it will not reflect a completely neutral reality, it will showcase a partial reality that has not yet been revealed. Regarding feminist rhetorical historiography, the Burkean women’s narratives undoubtedly contribute by including previously unheard voices and stories into the narrative of Kenneth Burke and twentieth-century rhetoric. Certainly, there were women who helped foster, encourage, and inspire Burke in his lifetime, which assuredly influenced his work. Throughout my research, I will reveal some of the narratives of the female figures who surrounded Burke and perhaps motivated, inspired, or directly assisted his writing. These stories—these herstories—warrant further exploration and sharing with not only the existing community of Burkean scholars and students of rhetoric, but also future scholars focused on feminist rhetorical historiography, Kenneth Burke, and archival research. In this dissertation, I share these narratives. These herstories reveal contributions to the emergence of twentieth-century rhetoric through the scholarship of Kenneth Burke.

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