Practicing Citizenship

Womens Rhetoric at the 1893 Chicago Worlds Fair

By (author) Kristy Maddux

Hardback - £79.95

Publication date:

24 April 2019

Length of book:

256 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271083506

By 1893, the Supreme Court had officially declared women to be citizens, but most did not have the legal right to vote. In Practicing Citizenship, Kristy Maddux provides a glimpse at an unprecedented alternative act of citizenship by women of the time: their deliberative participation in the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893.

Hailing from the United States and abroad, the more than eight hundred women speakers at the World’s Fair included professionals, philanthropists, socialites, and reformers addressing issues such as suffrage, abolition, temperance, prison reform, and education. Maddux examines the planning of the event, the full program of women speakers, and dozens of speeches given in the fair’s daily congresses. In particular, she analyzes the ways in which these women shaped the discourse at the fair and modeled to the world practices of democratic citizenship, including deliberative democracy, racial uplift, organizing, and economic participation. In doing so, Maddux shows how these pioneering women claimed sociopolitical ground despite remaining disenfranchised.

This carefully researched study makes significant contributions to the studies of rhetoric, American women’s history, political history, and the history of the World’s Fair itself. Most importantly, it sheds new light on women’s activism in the late nineteenth century; even amidst the suffrage movement, women innovated practices of citizenship beyond the ballot box.

“An outstanding book. Through her thoroughly researched, engagingly written, and accessible scholarship, Kristy Maddux shows how the women who participated in the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago projected onto the world stage the tensions and aspirations of their historical moment. She draws our attention to rhetorical events of undeniable importance that continue to resonate for us, here, today.”

—Robert Terrill, author Double-Consciousness and the Rhetoric of Barack Obama