History is full of examples of women who’ve spoken out for their beliefs, but how would you know it? What women say has seldom been recorded or remembered.

But finally that’s changing. It’s refreshing to see two new collections focused on women’s speech.

She Spoke: 14 Women Who Raised their Voices and Changed the World puts the spotlight on women who speak out for social, political, and humanitarian causes. It’s geared to girls and young women, inspiring the next generation.

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There’s an illustration, a quote, a short bio and a button to push so you can actually hear the sound of a powerful woman advocating change.

One example: Suzan Shown Harjo, an outspoken advocate for Native American rights. Of Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee heritage, Harjo gives voice to Native American policy issues like healthcare, civil rights, cultural preservation, and the recovery of tribal land.

And Joanne Liu, a Canadian pediatric physician and International President of Médecins Sans Frontières. Liu speaks out to support humanitarian relief and medical care for victims of war, disease, and natural disasters around the world.

Another new book, So Here I Am: Speeches by Great Women to Empower and Inspire, pays homage to 65 powerful women speakers.

When editor Anna Russell trawled through speech anthologies looking for examples, she came up nearly empty handed. The largest collection, The World’s Great Speeches: 292 Speeches from Pericles to Nelson Mandela, presents only 11 speeches by women.

No wonder no one knows the remarkable history of women’s speech.

Russell’s collection demonstrates women’s rhetorical contributions to “broad social and political movements,” from suffrage to civil rights, LGBTQ equality, and the environment.

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In Women & Power: A Manifesto, the classicist Mary Beard examines the relationship between “the voice of women and the public sphere of speech-making, debate and comment.”

What is the cost to society, she asks, when women’s voices, ideas and opinions are absent from the public record – when so much of our best thinking is left out?

That’s why I founded the Keynote Women Speech Bank, an online repository with hundreds of women’s speeches across time and from around the world. I want every girl and woman to see what a powerful female speaker looks like – and hear what she sounds like.

As Russell points out, for as long as we can remember, the answer to the question: “Can you think of a speech by a woman?” has been “no.”

With these illuminating books, the answer should be “yes.”


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