This site offers an archive of speeches by “influential, contemporary women.” Almost all of the speeches in the collection come directly from the authors themselves or from the organizations representing them and have not been published elsewhere. The main focus is the period since 1900, although some speeches made between 1800 and 1900 are included. There are currently more than 400 speeches and the number continues to grow. Fewer than one-fourth of these, however, are from the 1848-1988 period.

The site contains a search function and is divided into five other sections. “Browse“ sorts the speeches alphabetically (by the last name of the speaker) or chronologically. “Frequently Asked Questions“ explains the origins and selection criteria. “How To“ gives details on bibliographic citation, length of speech delivery, and search tips. “Nobel Lectures“ offers two sections: “Nobel Lectures” organizes selected speeches by category; “Top 100 American Speeches of the 20th Century” lists top ranked speeches and provides texts for those by women.

The search function is particularly useful for allowing students to pull speeches from a diverse collection into common subject groups. It also allows students to study the language of women’s public debate by following changes in the use of particular metaphors or idioms, such as the use of the concept “motherhood.”

“Top 100 American Speeches,” compiled by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Texas A & M University, is illuminating for what it includes and excludes and might usefully be compared by students with speeches in the “Gifts of Speech” section from any particular year.

The selection of speeches is eclectic. The site includes prominent female politicians and scientists, as well as popular culture figures such as rock musician Courtney Love. “Nobel Lectures by Women Laureates“ includes almost all lectures given by women laureates and would provide a particular theme for students to follow in investigating women’s public rhetoric.

While there is an emphasis on the United States (particularly before 1900) the site is global in its reach, including speeches from women as diverse as Human Rights Activist Constance Yai from Ivory Coast (”Remarks at a Roundtable Discussion on Human Rights in Africa with United States President Bill Clinton”) or Charlotte van Rappard-Boon, Chief Inspector Of Cultural Heritage, Netherlands Ministry Of Education, Culture And Science (”The Fate of Works of Art in the Netherlands During and after World War Two”).

This is a well-designed and carefully laid-out site. A key disadvantage, however, is the lack of any but the most basic contextualization of the speeches themselves or of the women who gave them. The date, immediate context, and name of the speaker is included, but little else. This site allows students of history to employ speeches as primary sources and to chart changes in women’s rhetoric in the public realm from 1800 to the present. It might be most helpful for teachers and students of world history when used with secondary sources related to the particular theme of the speeches under discussion. Using the search function can pull a common theme together in speeches separated by time, place, and intent.

Reviewed by Kirsten McKenzie, University of Sydney
How to Cite This Source
Kirsten McKenzie, Gifts of Speech: Women's Speeches from Around the World in World History Commons,