An invisible empire of her own: The women of the Ku Klux Klan (1923-30)

Abigail Deborah Selzer, Purdue University


This rhetorical study presents a critical-historical reading of the pamphlet discourse of the Women of the Ku Klux Klan (1923-30). Its first main claim is that the Women of the Ku Klux Klan developed an ideology that radically challenged the misogynist discourse of their masculinist namesake, the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. This study tracks the development of the WKKK's ideology by focusing on the rhetorical strategies deployed in two pamphlets and through a comparative analysis using pamphlets from the men's Klan. The second main claim of this study is that the WKKK has been overlooked in the historical tradition of American female rhetors and in the study of American feminists. I posit that their absence is due to the historigraphical censorship of radical, conservative, feminists. I argue for a more nuanced understanding of hybrid ideologies in which prosocial beliefs are mixed with anti-social ideologies.^




Samuel McCormick, Purdue University.

Subject Area

American Studies|History, United States|Women's Studies

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