Ann Marie Mann Simpkins

The professional writing practices and dialogic rhetoric of two black women publishers: Discourse as social action in the nineteenth-century

Ann Marie Mann Simpkins

  • School: Purdue University (0183)
  • Degree: Ph.D.
  • Date: 1999 pp: 142
  • Advisor: Lauer, Janice
  • Subjects: Rhetoric (0681), Composition (0681), Black history (0328), Women’s studies (0453), Biographies (0304)
  • ProQuest Document Number: 276362130
  • ISBN: 9780493283975
  • UMI Number: 3017683


This study examines the rhetorics of Mary E. Miles (Bibb) (Cary) and Mary A. Shadd (Cary). Both Miles and Shadd were nineteenth-century African-American women who worked as professional writers, editors, and publishers specializing in the dissemination of nonfiction prose to abolitionist audiences. Miles and Shadd and the discursive interchanges that the women published for the constituencies that they represented in Canada West constitute a resource from which scholars can study the strategy and effects of nineteenth-century rhetorical practices in public and quasi-public spheres. Given the differences in the ideologies of Miles’s and Shadd’s respective constituencies, the study introduces the terms commercial and reformist rhetorics.

This study uses revisionary historiography as the principal method of investigation. First the study establishes Miles as the writer, editor, and publisher of several texts previously attributed to her husband, abolitionist Henry Bibb. The study also offers an analysis of those antebellum contexts in North America relevant to the writing and publishing practices of Miles. Next, the study discusses Shadd’s publishing practices and shows how her reformist rhetoric was influenced by Miles’s commercial rhetoric. The study concludes by exploring the nature of the Miles-Shadd dialectic through a discussion of those features that characterize their two discourses.

The Refugees Home Society, a land settlement group, strove to enact policy that located power of governance for the émigré population in the hands of a few elite. Many in Miles’s constituency believed that commercial ventures and a concentration of wealth among a few would make possible the eventual elevation of all. In contrast, most in Shadd’s Provincial Union constituency distrusted the aims of the Refugees Home Society discourse. Provincial Union affiliates maintained that political and economic parity had to be established among all émigrés and that the integration of émigrés into the general population in Canada West would help establish and sustain equitable conditions for émigrés.