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Fall 2012, 42:5, pages 450-471

“Audacia Dangyereyes”:  Appropriate Speech and the “Immodest” Woman Speaker of the Comstock Era

Abstract: In the 1870s and ‘80s, more women discussed sex to promote free love and sex education in speeches, pamphlets, books, and periodicals. Some of these women inspired the 1873 ‘‘Comstock law,’’ which banned materials deemed obscene. This essay uses the fictional figure of Audacia Dangyereyes to illustrate the constraints on women discussing sex in public forums. It identifies the rhetorical moves necessary to accommodate constraining audiences through close readings of the works of Victoria Woodhull, Tennessee Claflin, and Angela Heywood, all women deemed immodest by public standards and obscene by Anthony Comstock. To allay such charges, these women worked to redefine appropriate speech for women.

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