Tributes to Kate Ronald

Kate (Katharine J.) Ronald passed away unexpectedly October 27, 2020. In her 20 years at the University of Miami at Ohio, where she won the university’s highest teaching award, she was Roger and Joyce L. Howe Professor of English and Director of the Howe Writing Initiative. Before that she taught at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for over a decade and helped begin writing centers at both institutions. She directed over 50 dissertations and theses at Miami alone, not counting her other grad committee work as a reader or her advising at Nebraska, indicative of her generosity and reach in the field.

For those who didn’t know Kate personally, here’s just a glimpse of her essence from her lovely memorial:

Everybody who knew Kate knew what she loved and what she didn’t. She was never without an animal in her life, often several. In Miami, she kept goats and ducks and a donkey named after her niece Margaret. But it was the dogs that held her special regard. She said she was a connoisseur of the rat dog, but she loved them all. Sparky, her final canine friend, has been adopted and no doubt will continue to sport the special occasion outfits Kate delighted in his wearing.

She loved being a Southern girl, and she was a proud Kentuckian, which meant she was a superb cook and a perfect hostess. She was a rabid Cardinal fan and wouldn’t miss a basketball game. She loved red lipstick, great hats and any little inanimate object with feet. She loved justice and equality. She adored Bruce Springsteen.

As anyone who was lucky enough to know Kate can attest, it would be impossible to collect tributes that distinguish between the professional and personal, since Kate brilliantly and beautifully merged both. The tributes below come from colleagues and former graduate students who show with humor and poignancy how much so many gained about teaching, learning, and writing through her classes, her collaboration, but mostly through her friendship.

Following the tributes, we’ve included a reprint of Lisa Shaver’s “The Making of Available Means” from Peitho (vol 20.2, 2018) that draws on interviews with Kate and Joy Ritchie about the creation of the anthology. We’ve then included a bibliography of Kate’s work, and we are grateful to Ann S. Updike for providing this information


Meredith Love and Charlotte Hogg
A Common Heritage

We are writing this today as cousins. We are related, of course, through Joy Ritchie and the late Kate Ronald—Kate directed Meredith’s dissertation at Miami University, and her sister-in-collaboration, Joy Ritchie, directed Charlotte’s at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (with co-chair Amy Goodburn). And Kate had also been Charlotte’s teacher in an advanced composition course at University of Nebraska-Lincoln back in 1993. It was the discovery of this common heritage that made us feel comfortable with one another almost instantly when we met in 2006 on the first day of the summer WPA workshop in blazing hot Chattanooga, Tennessee. We became fast friends. This familiar connection generated an initial trust; we suspected that our lineage meant that we had similar views of teaching, a foundation in some of the same theories of writing, and an understanding of the necessity of supporting the work of other women in the field as well as a respect for the women that came before us.


Kate and I met in 1999, in the last century, as my children would say. When I began writing this piece, I thought I might focus my attention back to those days, on what she taught me about professional civility or how she shepherded me through the dissertation and interview phases of my graduate career. Instead, I find myself compelled to write about my relationship with Kate today and the relationship she has with my students through Available Means. Filled with the fitful, furious, assertive, and smart voices of women who transgressed boundaries and shocked the system, the names of the women in Available Means are often new to my undergraduate students. When I first started teaching the course, the cries to be heard, the demanding of a forum and a voice, and the calls for action made by the women in Available Means all felt past tense. It was all history. My students appreciated it and were inspired by it, but the exigencies were lost on them. My job was to help them see how these selections were consequential and how they might be useful to them.

In their “Introduction” to another book, Teaching Rhetorica, Ronald and Ritchie reflect upon the reclamation and recovery of women’s rhetorics and ask “[W]hat difference has this renaissance made in the field?” (2). They stress the importance of asking “So What?” (2) and turn to pragmatism and William James who stresses “looking toward last things, fruits, consequences, facts” (11).

So what? 

So the choices made by Kate and Joy have mattered. The consequences of these choices matter for my students today. 

A majority of my students come from a protestant Christian tradition, about 37% of the student body is African American, and many are first-generation college students. In 2021 my students see Available Means with different eyes. The rhetorical situations and the rhetoric employed are clearly relevant for them today and even serve as mentor texts, or mini master classes in how to discursively navigate their worlds. Here is how some of these voices have mattered.

How we are redeemed and enlarged by the mercy and grace of our sweet, kind and ever-loving mother Jesus; and of the properties of motherhood; but Jesus is our true mother…

Julian of Norwich (27)

Many of the students in my classroom are practicing Christians who have felt excluded or have been explicitly excluded by their churches. Julian of Norwich’s casting of Jesus as mother resonates in material ways for students who have walked away from institutions who wouldn’t consider them for leadership positions or for those who no longer have a place in institutions that their family has been a part of for generations. Reading and understanding the strategies of women rhetors like Julian of Norwich, Margaret Fell, and Dorothy Day are necessary for them; they amplify their own thoughts and their voices—whether spoken or unspoken.

Let me tell you a story. Let me tell you the story that is in no part fiction, the story of the female body taught to hate itself.

Dorothy Allison (449)

The rate at which women are murdered by men is consistently high in South Carolina, usually putting us in the top 10 in the country. When we read Dorothy Allison or Andrea Dworkin in our class, we are reading the lives of many of my students. No, they didn’t all grow up in poor, rural areas, nor have they necessarily been sexually assaulted themselves. But most have felt the heat of such a threat or the fear suffered by loved ones. The raw honesty and rage of women such as these are a comfort and a relief to these readers. They give them permission to be furious.

The lawlessness here described is not confined to one locality. In the past ten years over a thousand colored men, women and children have been butchered, murdered and burnt in all parts of the South.

Ida B. Wells (197)

Ida B. Wells is a true revelation for my students, and most are shocked that they have never heard of her. When Wells unrelentingly lists the different occasions upon which people were lynched in the late 19th century, when we hear their names and the circumstances surrounding their deaths, students hear “Black Lives Matter.” Discussing connections between then and now helps them to make their own cases, and, from Wells, they learn that logic and persuasion and passion can all work together and that these means are available to them now, today. 

There is so much to learn from Available Means. Students tell me that this is one of the only books they kept from their undergraduate coursework; others say that they still refer to it. This recovery work has been of consequence for my students and continues to be for me as well, as students work to uncover and discover these texts. And the texts help them to recover and form their own perspectives and courses of action as adults. They—we—are still learning the available means. 

Thank you, Kate for teaching us this through these women. And, as so many will share in these pages, thank you for living this work and demonstrating to us how to use words with honesty, force, and love. On behalf of my students and many, many others, thank you for giving us this very usable past to help us with this very unstable present.


I wasn’t as close to Kate as the rest of the contributors here, and yet her impact on my life has been profound, as her presence has come at kairotic moments throughout my life. These culminated with Persuasive Acts, the follow up to Available Means I co-edited with Shari Stenberg. This text—its contents, my connection to it—is tethered to what I learned from Kate as an undergrad. When I took her Advanced Composition course in my last semester as an undergrad at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I felt a spark of bravery as a writer and, for my first time, possibility as a teacher. I have an awful memory, yet I remember the classroom in Andrews Hall, chairs in a circle, her sharing productivity gems before it was the thing to do, like how she would read while blow-drying her curly hair. She was charismatic and yet always made us feel that our writing—and the values we laid bare there—were the most important thing in the room.

I still have her syllabus and journal with her responses.

part of front page of Kate Ronald’s 1993 Advanced Composition syllabus
journal page with handwriting and Kate’s handwriting on the left margin, “All this advice is true, as is believing in yourself”

photos © Charlotte Hogg

I see in them now the feminist ethic and praxis Meredith describes from Available Means and her other scholarship. Even then, before I knew that rhet/comp was a field, I knew I wanted to be like her. I visited her office wondering what to do with my life; she told me about the field of rhetoric and composition, made a list of programs for me to apply to (this was before one could look them up online), and I applied to exactly that list and wound up at Oregon State, the perfect MA program for me. 

I had begun my PhD at UNL the same year she departed for Miami and somehow ended up on a panel with her at the first Feminisms and Rhetorics conference in 1997, where her response to my talk again influenced my trajectory. Years later, drafting an article, I found just what I needed in one of her lesser-known pieces: she just kept appearing to teach me. 

Then, in another serendipitous moment, she arrived on my campus as an external reviewer for our department, and I managed to nab the seat next to her at one of the dinners where we talked about teaching Available Means to undergraduates. We talked about just what Meredith describes:  how the pieces can feel both dated and immediate to students and about how a new anthology could speak to Available Means. Yet my teaching context differs from Meredith; at a predominantly white institution, the immediacy didn’t always come through to some students who could distance themselves with privilege and presentism. 

As Shari and I worked on Persuasive Acts, the follow up to Available Means, we knew our goal shouldn’t and couldn’t be to mimic or match Available Means but for its theories to inform us even as we worked to acknowledge that our positionalities were aligned with Kate and Joy as white feminists. Still:  the more we found new, urgent texts, particularly in the wake of the 2016 election, the more Available Means held up. In 2019, I was able to teach an undergraduate course that used both Available Means and selections from Persuasive Acts together, gathering the Treaty of 1851 quilts by Gina Adams, an activist speech by Tara Houska on the Dakota Access Pipeline with Cherokee Women from Available Means. Taking care to work against a monolithic Native voice or ethic, students were also able to see what Meredith relays—an urgency pulsing through the historical trajectory. From pairings such as these, our course developed what we came to call “rhetorics of representation,” about tactics rhetors employ to draw in audiences with differing lived experiences. Students came to this by describing the persuasive power of the texts despite many coming from spaces of privilege.     

I still use an adaptation of an assignment I had in Kate’s class nearly 30 years ago that centralizes student voices but asks them to contribute to a larger conversation. The introduction to Available Means is still the most definitive text I share with undergraduates and graduate students, which is not to say it can’t and shouldn’t be challenged—Kate and Joy wouldn’t want it any other way. 

I’ll confess that I’m drawn to the full circle story of being an undergrad of Kate’s and now a co-editor of Persuasive Acts, not because of its tidiness—I learned from Kate that tidy conclusions can say a whole lot of nothing—but because of the so what. I’ve always been a somewhat reluctant academic, but at every key moment in my trajectory Kate modeled an alternative through embodying the she theorized: unpretentious but whip smart, generous with guidance without taking over, and witty as hell. She’ll remain unmatched in these qualities but still made me—and, as you’ll see, so many others—strive to be the best teachers, researchers, and people we can be, which is what made her such an exemplar. 


Hepzibah Roskelly

Kate’s favorite movie line of all time, she would tell you, was from one of her favorite movies, The Godfather. “It’s not personal,” Michael Corleone says to his brother as he gets ready to murder the men responsible for wounding their father. “It’s strictly business.” The line and variations of it become a refrain in the movie. Even when a member of the “family” is taken away to be murdered for his betrayal of the Corleones, he acknowledges the code. “Tell Michael it was just business.”

The delicious irony of the line appealed to Kate’s sense of humor. If anything is, dying is personal. But the deeper truth of this Godfather theme struck her even more than its humor. It became a cornerstone of her thinking about her teaching and writing life. The attempt to divorce the personal from the professional is ludicrous and not only when someone’s life is literally at stake. People’s lives, the quality of them, truly are at stake when we teach reading and writing. Kate understood better than anybody I know that it was personal, this business of teaching and learning. 

I suspect that most of the writers who are contributing reflections to this issue will tell a Kate story or two as they describe her influence on them, both as professionals and as people. It’s hard to talk about her impact without talking about her persona: her liveliness, her genuine funniness, her generosity, her honesty. All those qualities  were in evidence in nearly every lecture or presentation she gave, in much of her writing, and in all her dealings with colleagues in her universities and in the field at large. 

She would like that. I think she’d see it as a mark of professional accomplishment—that her constant attempt to elevate and sustain experience and the individual in a culture that has often denied or disparaged both—has blossomed in the work of those she has touched. She used her self to teach and was rewarded by watching her students become stronger writers, braver speakers and more imaginative thinkers under her care. She knew them, she made them laugh, and she invited them to tell the truth because she told it.

It was the same with colleagues like me. A lot of years ago Kate and I stood together on a podium at CCCC to give our first talk as members of the profession, new assistant professors. We spoke about our work in the University of Louisville’s Writing Center. I’m sure it was her idea to share the podium and talk together like the friends we were. We interrupted each other and laughed while we spoke of the value of teaching challenging literature to beginning writers. As I remember it, most of the questions afterward, in fact, were about us rather than our topic. I might have thought that a weakness. But not Kate. She knew the personal was part of our topic and part of what she wanted to say to the profession.

Kate taught us—and continues to in the work of so many who’ve been influenced by her—to value experience and to use the personal in professional life. She always valued the human, and the humans she collaborated with and taught. She never forgot her own human-ness—foibles, strengths and beauties together—and she never forgot ours. We will always love her for it.


Joy Ritchie
So What? What Difference Does It Make?

When I heard that Kate had died I was driving from the Oregon Coast to my home in Portland, and I remembered an afternoon that Kate and I had spent at the coast after the first Feminisms and Rhetorics Conference organized by Lisa Ede at Oregon State. As we walked on the beach that September afternoon, pants’ legs rolled up to walk in the surf, then bought earrings at a little shop, we were also working on the proposal for Available Means. While mourning the loss of my friend, I am also reminded of the excitement and just plain fun that I experienced working with Kate, whether as coordinators of composition at the University of Nebraska, planning curriculum for first year writing and graduate seminars or, after she moved to Miami, sitting together at the computer in Oxford, taking breaks to feed her goats and mule or play with one of her scruffy dogs, all while writing the introduction to Available Means.

Kate stood out as a presence in any room. She radiated enthusiasm and commitment. She was the smartest, wittiest, most engaging storyteller, always with the right turn of phrase. Unafraid to push boundaries, she spoke back to authority. You could always expect an honest response from Kate. But when she delivered the truth it was with generosity and humility. I knew her as a rigorous teacher, caring mentor, and colleague. I watched undergraduate students light up as she encouraged them to try out a new approach to a text or reconsider their own writing from a new perspective. Over the past few weeks I’ve heard many of her former graduate students describe how Kate inspired them as scholars and as teachers while she also recognized the interwoven circumstances of their personal and academic lives. She pushed them beyond impasses in their dissertations and supported them as they faced illness or other crises.

Although it’s not possible to summarize or categorize Kate’s contributions, for me several constants are woven through all of them. Her holistic approach to teaching is not surprising because she understood her work as praxis, the interconnections among our teaching, research, academic, and personal lives. They coexist without the hierarchy that can undermine the vitality of our activities. She acted on her belief that theory and practice are reciprocal. We enact theory in our practice and our practice performs our theory. This understanding of praxis was connected to her feminist belief in collaboration, which she encouraged in research, teaching, and program leadership. Early in her time at the University of Nebraska as coordinator of composition and the writing center she created collaborative structures that allowed Ph.D. students to alternate as co-coordinators. She helped to initiate a monthly faculty and graduate student writing group and advocated for collaborative teaching. Kate understood the energy that develops through the sense of community that collaboration makes possible.

 “What difference does it make?” This was an overarching question that Kate posed as she guided both students’ undergraduate writing or dissertations. It also guided our explorations of women’s rhetorics and raised questions and unexpected possibilities about the expanded dimensions and fluidity of women’s rhetorics, including the urgency that often sparked women’s speaking and writing, and the innovative rhetorical methods and forms they employed. Her question, “What difference does it make?” also demands that we examine the uses we make of the emerging canon of women’s rhetoric beyond academic scholarship and professional advancement. And always, Kate asked herself as well as us how the question should guide our own writing, reading, pedagogy and civic action. Now, as we remember and honor Kate, we know without question that her dynamic presence enriched us, expanded our perspectives, and made an immense difference to us her friends, her colleagues, students, and to the institutions and society she served.


Connie Kendall Theado and Brenda M. Helmbrech
Begin Again

“We have begun this book many times,” Hepsie and Kate declare in the first line of the preface to their book Reason to Believe (1998, p. xi). “But its true beginning,” they write, “came in an attic” (p. xi). Fifteen words in and you’re hooked.

The two friends go on to tell the story of inscriptions purportedly written on a wall of the attic in the Old Manse, Emerson’s family home, and of a tour they’d taken before but decided to take one more time on a “magical Sunday” in Concord, Massachusetts (p. xi). This time, a kind guide, undoubtedly charmed by the pair, led them privately up the stairs to glimpse the attic wall where several inscriptions were indeed revealed, including one written by Emerson himself.

I visited this room and read the inscription of the souls gone before. RWE.

We have begun this book many times, they tell us. Not just a memorable lead sentence, it turns out, but insight on how life itself works.

Kate lived her life as the pragmatic romantic rhetorician she was, in a “spirit of readiness” (1998, p. 87) ever willing to rethink, reimagine, reevaluate, and revise. In other words, a disposition to begin again or, as William James might have put it, to keep the quest open. And as Kate so often showed us, if we’re very lucky, we can begin again in partnership with others who make our own life stories all the richer.

Gathering. A recurrent image in Joy and Kate’s introduction to their anthology Available Means; “always a woman’s metaphor,” they remind us (2001, p. xvi). These two friends taught us how to look for, listen for, women’s voices in familiar yet unseen places: “the kitchen, parlor, and nursery;” they write, “the garden; the church; the body” (p. xvii). As scholars following in Kate’s steps, we have been seeking out and gathering women’s voices ever since. Women speaking, women listening, women writing.

Aspasia, Queen Elizabeth, Mary Wollstonecraft, Adrienne Rich, Paula Allen Gunn, Audre Lorde, Ruth Bader Ginsberg: so many women who were left out of our early education (but of course they were quietly there; women always are). We are stronger because Kate and Joy did the hard work of bringing these voices into our consciousness, reacquainting us with our own history by teaching the work of strong and savvy women rhetoricians who, by now, we just need to call rhetoricians. Kate insisted on that. 

Kate also taught us that our roles as women in the academy were not always a given, so we’ve been making sure to (re)claim our voices in as many academic and public spaces as we can. Naming and knowing. Squaring our beliefs with our actions. In full awareness that the actions we take as feminist scholars and researchers and teachers—as rhetoricians—always speak back to and with the women who came before, a gathering of women’s voices, experiences, words, and ideas, speaking with a thunderous timbre to effect change in the world.

As we make space for women’s voices in department meetings, present our ideas at conferences, sit in circles with our students, and draw triangles on chalkboards, we channel Kate’s energy and force. Our ability and willingness to reflect—to simultaneously unsettle past assumptions and reimagine a future—makes this work possible.

It’s been months since we got the call. One dear friend, Brenda, gently delivering the impossible news of Kate’s passing to the other, Connie. Writing partners for this piece. As the early days and weeks passed, the circle of friends who received similar calls from their dear friends gently delivering the impossible news grew, like concentric circles made by a stone skipping over a lake’s surface.

Circles of different sizes but with a common center. Kate.

From one late afternoon phone call to a series of Zoom calls unfolding almost weekly. First, the smallest circle, our two closest graduate school pals, then a bit larger circle, ten former Howe Writing Initiative women, and finally the largest circle consisting of dozens of faculty, graduate students, friends, and family members from far and near.

Skipping stones: Louisville; Lincoln; Oxford; writing classrooms; writing centers; seminar rooms; conference daises; back to Louisville again. Concentric circles made exponential by all who learned from Kate and were carried forward, outward, on one of the many waves she inevitably created—same center, different radii.

There’s no such thing as a false start, Kate used to tell us, as we were restarting a dissertation chapter from scratch for the third time. All experience counts—in writing and in life. All text is useable text. Maybe not for this writing project but you never know. Save it. One day these words will find their use. And then, well then darlin’, she’d wink, you’ll be ready.

For now, just keep moving.
Begin again.


  • Ritchie, J., & Ronald, K. (Eds.). (2001). Available Means: An Anthology of Women’s Rhetoric(s). University of Pittsburgh Press.
  • Roskelly, H., & Ronald, K. (1998). Reason to Believe: Romanticism, Pragmatism, and the Teaching of Writing. SUNY Press.


Tom Pace
Kate’s Impact on Style

Kate always encouraged us as her students to remember that our first job as writing teachers was, above all, to teach writing. I think that is why she found style to be an important part of the writing process and an important consideration for teachers. The teaching of writing, Kate insisted, was the gravitational pull for what we did; no matter how far away from that gravitational center we got, she reminded us, we should always bring it back to the teaching of writing. In her essay, “Style: The Hidden Agenda,” an essay written with both students and teachers firmly in mind, Kate reminded us that, like it or not, whether we are aware of it or not, we judge student writing by its style. And, the worst part?  We’re not telling them about this agenda, she declares, nor are we teaching students how to improve their style. In true Kate form, she then explains clearly and succinctly how and why writing teachers often neglect style and shows her student readers concrete, practical strategies for improving their writing style.

I love this essay. Over 20 years after first reading it as a PhD student at Miami, I often require my GAs to read it in the composition pedagogy seminar I teach, and I often ask my first-year writing students to read it, as well. Few essays exist that I ask both first-year students and graduate students to read; this is one of them. It is clear and accessible enough for beginning college writers to learn from, and it is relevant and complex enough for graduate teaching assistants to find useful for their classroom.

The study of style has undergone something of a renaissance in recent years. Since about the mid-2000s, scholars such as Paul Butler, T.R. Johnson, Star Medzarian Vanguri, Brian Ray, and others have reminded the field that style, to paraphrase a recent book on the subject, should be the center of the writing classroom. Interestingly, not many of us have formally cited Kate’s essay as an early first step toward that renaissance. But, every scholar in style I have talked with over the last decade or so has told me the importance of that essay in their early understanding of style. In 2017, at the Tampa CCCC, Paul Butler and I were having a drink at the hotel bar, when Kate strode over to say hello to me. I introduced her to Paul, an important voice in the recent style revival. Kate was absolutely delighted to meet Paul, and Paul was in awe of meeting Kate. After he learned of Kate’s passing, Paul emailed me to say, “Her scholarship was an inspiration to all of us who work on issues of style.” And he’s right. All of us who work in style and think about issues surrounding it are forever in her debt.


Jason Palmeri
The Rhetorical Abundance of Kate Ronald

I remember once sitting on the patio of a local pub with Kate Ronald. At some point, I opined to Kate that I focused my attention on “higher-order concerns” in writing rather than on the mere “sentence-level.” Kate stopped me, took a long drag on her cigarette, and then said something like this:  “Of course, higher-order concerns are important, but darlin…I do not know what we are teaching if we are not teaching the writing of sentences…if we are not teaching the choosing of words. We need to always be asking Berthoff’s question, ‘How does it change the meaning if I put it this way?’ We need to always be practicing Erasmus’ copia—inventing endless variations of sentences so that we can choose just the right one.” Kate changed me as a writing teacher that day. She helped me see that whether I was guiding students to consider a change of a single word or a more global shift of argument, I should always be inviting them to play with language — inspiring them to generate a copious collection of possible words and then choose the most persuasive and delightful ones for the kairotic moment.

For Kate, copia was more than a stylistic exercise. I think Kate loved the idea of copia because it encapsulated her radically inclusive and abundant way of living as a teacher, as a scholar, as a human being. For Kate, inventing new words was a profoundly feminist act. If the patriarchy had been built through words, then we damn well needed to invent a new language to defeat it. And, it was this search for a new language that drew Kate to the history of women’s rhetoric. When Kate first entered the field of rhetoric, she was confronted by an abundance of texts by men and a paucity of texts by women. The last time I visited Kate in Louisville she had recently unearthed her PhD candidacy exam in her files, and we talked about how few women had been on her list (I counted six). I realized then more than ever what a gift Kate had given us all when she chose to dedicate her scholarly and teaching career to recovering and amplifying the voices of women rhetors across time so that no other woman in the field would ever have to face such a patriarchal, exclusionary list again. With her transformative research and generous mentoring, Kate made the field of rhetoric more open, more joyful, more abundant.

Kate truly was copia incarnate. She didn’t just teach rhetorical abundance…she lived it. Kate always chose the perfect shoes for the occasion from her copious collection of footwear; she always offered her Derby party guests an elaborate selection of elegant hats to borrow (along with generous servings of Derby pie); she always knew how to choose just the right Springsteen track to get everyone dancing and singing along. And, as all her family, friends, students, and mentees know so well, Kate always chose just the right words to say whenever we passed a new milestone, whenever we faced a new challenge, whenever we felt like we just couldn’t go on. Kate Ronald—the wise, funny, and good woman speaking well—will live on through her powerful words that have transformed how so many of us teach, research, and live our lives


Lisa Blankenship
Ronald: Debriefing on a Life Well Lived

Profile of Kate Ronald smiling while watching Lisa Blankenship's wedding ceremony photo © Mike Peters, at my wedding on October 5, 2019

On October 11, 2020, my fiftieth birthday, Kate Ronald wrote me the last words I’d receive from her, inside her own book, Reason to Believe. I’d given her my own dog-eared copy ten years before, when I studied with her in the doctoral program at Miami University of Ohio, and asked if she’d consider giving it back to me, signed, one day. I had no idea when I got a package in the mail from her that day, only two weeks before she left us, how meaningful that note, and her act of returning the book, would be. She congratulated me on having recently earned tenure, and, in the most Kate-like of phrases, referred to me, as she had so many of her protégées over the years, as a “scholar/teacher.” 

Kate often referred to conversations about the latest political story or an event you’d both attended as “debriefings,” usually prolonged affairs involving multiple cigarettes and glasses of Sauvignon Blanc at her kitchen table, a local bar in Oxford, Ohio, or, after she retired, over the phone. I take this opportunity to debrief for a moment about Kate as a mentor, a friend, and a consummate rhetorician who reminds us never to separate theory from practice, our beliefs from our actions (and vice versa), or our scholarship from our teaching, and that, last but not least, every good thing and turn of phrase comes in threes, a nod to Aristotle. 

I’m not sure how even to begin to capture the force that is Katharine Ronald in a short statement like this. The things she loved so much in life—words—fall so very short right now. I have only a few names in my speed dial list on my phone: my spouse, my parents, my brother, and Kate—and I don’t know when or if I’ll be able to remove her. She was one of the most impressive minds I’ve known, the most brilliant person in most every room she was in, but to me she also was like family, someone who’d been there for me in the darkest moment of my life during the sudden death of my partner when I was her doctoral student. She knew the pain of losing a spouse; her husband Dennis had died several years earlier after a prolonged battle with leukemia. I’m numbed and hollowed out by her leaving us. It hardly seems possible that the events we’ll experience from now on will be moments she’ll miss and moments none of us can debrief with her about. It hardly seems possible this is a world without Kate in it.

Whether she was leading a graduate seminar, teaching first-year writing, or recalling the day’s news with you on the phone, she was, first and foremost, a student of rhetoric. Her love of learning, her razor-sharp wit, her joy-tinged-with-heartache were contagious; she made all of us smarter and the field much richer by being in our lives. In her own scholarly work, in her life as a teacher, and in her relationships, she embodied the romantic/pragmatic rhetoric she and Hepsie Roskelly espoused.

She gave us reason to believe.


Morris Young
Providing the Available Means: Teacher, Mentor, Friend

While I enjoyed the benefit of many great teachers in my life, including teachers of rhetoric and writing, I learned more from Kate Ronald about the history, teaching, and uses of rhetoric than I could imagine in the time we were colleagues at Miami University. But more than rhetoric, I learned from Kate how love, compassion, and strength shape our lives as scholars, teachers, and human beings.

In 1997, when I began my new position as an assistant professor at Miami University, I was probably too big for my britches as Kate might say. Michigan this, Michigan that. Ann Arbor this, Ann Arbor that. But I’m sure Kate knew that I was terrified as I had to navigate working with graduate students, needing to publish, and in general just feeling as if I was out of place in small-town, rural Ohio. Every now and then she’d give me a good poke to make sure I actually did the work rather than think I had it made. And then just as quickly, she’d flash that smile and let me know how important the work I was doing was and that I needed to be here.

Kate was not only an influence for who I became as a teacher and scholar but also provided the means for me to do so. When I had a question about my teaching (or more likely a problem), she was always there to talk through ideas, offer suggestions for activities, or to just tell me I was wrong and unreasonable or to assure me that the students were actually being a pain. But she also showed me how and why to develop relationships with students and colleagues to create the foundation for a lifetime of learning, collaboration, and conversation. Her scholarly partnerships with Joy Ritchie and Hephzibah Roskelly provided a model for LuMing Mao and me when we began our own project on Asian American rhetoric.

As a mentor, she helped me to understand the way institutions worked, especially in reaching out across disciplines and departments. I often watched in admiration as she talked easily with a faculty member from the School of Business, or laughed with the dean, or stood toe-to-toe with the provost. At conferences, I’d see her deliver a talk or ask a question, while always commanding the room but inviting the audience to join her in talking about ideas. And on all of these occasions, I saw a generosity of spirit, a razor-sharp mind, and an ability to bring people along in order to move toward a common cause, whether that was the pursuit of knowledge, the education of students, or helping people do their best work.

And as a friend she created a sense of community welcoming me not only as part of the Miami family but also the Oxford family. I remember fondly the Derby parties, the occasional fine dinner when we were both in Oxford during the holidays, and our time together in the English department among the best faculty and friends I have known. It’s been 14 years since I left Miami for Wisconsin, and several years since I last saw Kate, but I think about her often as I work with my own students, welcome new faculty to our department, and appreciate the importance of teachers, mentors, and friends in our lives. Kate believed in me and so many others, and I know that we do our best to live up to that belief, trust, and love to be the scholar-teachers she saw in all of us.


Mary Jean Corbett
21 December 2020

It seems fitting to be writing this on the morning of the winter solstice, the day that dawns latest and darkens earliest, as every day has felt a little darker to me since Kate Ronald left this world. For 20 years or more, Kate has been my colleague and friend, and even after her retirement from Miami in 2016, we maintained weekly contact by phone and traveled together to warm, sunny places where the days were long and time stretched out before us. I never thought for a moment there wouldn’t be more trips, more time, more talks, more friendship ahead. 

I’ve come to realize since her death that Kate was a mentor to me, as to so many others, although not in any formal way. Despite the fact that we worked in different fields and had different scholarly interests, and that we sometimes disagreed about who to hire or what to argue, Kate modeled for me how to work across such barriers. In her own practice—as a teacher, a graduate mentor, a rhetorician, an administrator—she emphasized finding common ground whenever possible, and she put the greater good, collaboratively agreed upon, ahead of any individual or programmatic interest. She was always warm and forgiving and generous, able to put slights or losses aside, not because she didn’t feel them acutely, but because holding on to them didn’t solve anything. She advocated and practiced forbearance.

In the longer run, what many of us will remember Kate for, though, is her style. From the perfect skirts to the fabulous shoes to the enormous collection of Derby hats, Kate was always dressy. (Among many other things large and small, she lamented the declining relevance of lipstick during the pandemic.) She could set a perfect table and turn out a perfect meal for any occasion. She picked out lovely presents and sent appropriate cards. These are perhaps old-school virtues that have fallen out of favor among those of a younger generation, like myself, and they may seem trivial, too trivial, to mention. But they help to define Kate’s style of being in the world, which was to be of the world—engaged by it, appreciative of it, eager to make it more just, more beautiful, more of a home for us all. Her love for language, literature, and rhetoric, and her belief in their saving power, rested on that same foundation.


Keith Rhodes
Sometimes It Felt I Could Fly

Some of my favorite memories of Kate Ronald surround our greatest failure. While she was directing my dissertation at U of Nebraska, several of our Thursday afternoon talks lit on our shared interest in the idea of the sublime, and the often unspoken role sublime experience plays in pivotal moments in our thoughts, careers, and lives. As a returning adult student, I focused on making it through the program as quickly as possible, so we did nothing more about the Sublime then. But once I had my first full-time job, as a Writing Program Administrator (something I slowly realized Kate had also been, but in a way that transcended the term—of course), we decided to give it a run. 

These were the early days of email and such—I was still mainly doing email and Telnet on a VAX terminal—so we actually sent drafts by mail. But once we felt that we were on track, we needed to arrange working together in person. I made the familiar 2-hour drive up to Lincoln for a long weekend with Kate and Dennis at their quaint, unique home. Kate and I worked together as intensely as we could manage, swallowing aspirin like candy to fend off the eye, head, and neck strain and compensate for sleeping so little.

I now recall few of the details of what we wrote, other than that we were using a pragmatist frame to make more sensible some of what we thought postmodern views of the Sublime had made needlessly opaque. It was rejected in that classic split: Reader 1 loved it, Reader 2 hated it (since Reader 2 was exactly the kind of postmodernist we wanted to reach, clearly we didn’t manage it—alas). I mostly recall marveling at how quickly and deeply Kate could read, watching her burn through what little of the material I had brought to her attention that she hadn’t already read. And it dawned on me that her fabulous mind was very much a part of that prodigious ability to read anything, of any difficulty, with a speed and a penetrating ease that entirely humbled someone who also had thought he was smart.

Along the way, we spun out examples of things that seemed sublime to us, eventually mostly landing on music. So in some sense to memorialize that work session, which remains one of the intellectual highlights of my life, I made a mixtape (yes, actually on cassette tape) of songs that I had found sublime in the ways we discussed. Again, memory fails, though I assume it was long on Joni Mitchell and October Project. To my surprise, she made one for me, too. It broke long before my tapedeck did, and I didn’t have the sense to keep the case as a record of the playlist. But when I heard she had died, in her memory I played, now on YouTube, the surprise hit of them all: Randy Travis’ “Look Heart. No Hands.” And my heart ached.


Cristy Beemer
For Life

I need to share what I’m sure Kate would have wanted me to say: Kate Ronald was gorgeous, sexy, had great pins, and everyone loved her. She was a relentless flirt, a talented storyteller, and the most fiercely loyal friend you could ever have. 

I shall deliberately avoid all awkward and untrue mothering metaphors in respect to our feminist scholarship in a field that has certainly suffered from “feminization,” as Kate, along with her lifelong friend and writing partner, Hephzibah Roskelly, wrote about. Kate even balked when someone would refer to her as her dog’s mother. “I am not her mother; she’s my girlfriend,” Kate would beam as she snuggled Ranger or Sparky. Kate was not a mother figure to me, but she gave me my life. She showed me what a life in this field looks like, and how to navigate it with generosity and grace.

Kate said, “When you take on a grad student, you take them on for life.” She meant, of course, that she would always be there to advise—that mentoring doesn’t stop on graduation day. More than lifelong career advice, Kate’s deeper meaning was that a good mentor is there for her students’ lives, and all that entails, not just their careers.

Back in 2011, when I called Kate to tell her that I had breast cancer, it was a hard call. Only a handful of years prior, Kate bravely faced her beloved husband Dennis’ leukemia. I could hear her pause, take a long drag of her Salem Light on the other end of the phone and then grouse in her Kentucky way, “Damn, Cristy. Now you’re a member of the damn cancer community.” I was hurtling head-first into the steepest learning curve I would ever experience, and there was Kate to make me laugh and see it for what it was. Through her “affectionate interpretation,” Jane Addams’ term that Kate embraced in her work, I was able to see that I was entering a unique rhetorical space that deserved my attention and study. The very next thing Kate uttered was, “Immediately stop your tenure clock.” That was Kate—understanding, pragmatic, and always vigilantly and protectively advising me—not just in the work, but in my life.

Kate always pushed her students to answer the “So what?” question in their writing. It can be hard to hear “So what?” in response to one’s work, but Kate was a truth-teller. If you’ve been on the receiving end of a well-deserved “So what?” you probably also heard shortly after, “Darlin, are you mad at me?” Kate’s particularly charming, self-effacing rhetorical style always carried the burden and graciously gave the spotlight to another, and was just one of her most readily available means of persuasion. She asked the tough questions, but never shamed anyone. And under her mentorship, I found the answer to the “So what?” question in my work and my life—love. She loved us for life, and I will love her for the rest of mine.


LuMing Mao
Memories of a Dear Friend

Since the sudden passing of Kate Ronald, I have been both feeling my loss and counting my blessings. I have lost a dear friend, someone I have known for two decades. Meanwhile, I have also been pinching myself for my good fortune to have known Kate, to have learned from her, and to have been able to turn to her for support, advice, and love. I very much want to celebrate this good fortune and what Kate means to me and to all those whose lives she has touched.

Kate was a teacher in every sense of the word. She taught us feminist rhetoric and American pragmatism through a rhetorical lens. She modeled for us what it means to be a teacher of writing and to have a student-centered classroom. She mentored every graduate student whom she met. The moving and inspiring stories about her mentorship were legion, and as the inaugural Howe Professor of Writing from her arrival at Miami until her retirement in Spring 2016, her leadership for and contributions to the teaching of writing across the university and beyond legendary.

Kate was one of my closest friends and trusted advisors. Whenever I ran into any difficulties, big or small, Kate was among the first individuals I would turn to for advice and support. She never failed to tell me what she thought to be the right course of action to take, often punctuated with some of her more colorful witticisms that I came to enjoy and even imitate. As our friendship grew, I would sometimes find an excuse to either seek her out in person or get on the phone with her just in order to listen to her, to hear her optimism for the future or her disdain for pettiness or demagoguery. Her phronesis, her warmth, her ethic of care were both inspiring and instrumental to me. What I came to appreciate the most, over time, was how Kate taught me, on both the professional and personal front, to branch out, to think outside the box, and to explore the fullest potential life can offer. Thanks to Kate, I am now a better thinker, a decent dancer, and a more discerning shopper in selecting shoes to put on or clothes to wear, outfits appropriate for different occasions and befitting a heterosexual Chinese American.

In one sense, Kate has left me—much too early, much too soon. But in another sense, I know Kate will never leave me. Her friendship and her wise counsel over the years will forever serve as my font of inspiration and as my source for care, compassion, and community. I will always cherish her unwavering commitment to and boundless generosity for others, especially those who are less privileged and underrepresented. Kate lives on both in our memories and in the lives we lead on this Planet Earth.


Lisa Shaver
So Much Passion, So Much Love

“Where is the love?” That was one of the first written comments I received from Kate Ronald when I was a graduate student. Eighteen years later, I cannot remember the writing or text to which it was directed, but I still remember that comment. Even then, I think Kate was trying to tell me that academia is a passion-filled pursuit, or at least it should be. In that regard, those words encapsulate Kate Ronald as a teacher, scholar, mentor, and friend.

One of many wonderful Kateisms is, “When you agree to direct a graduate student’s dissertation, you take them on for life,” and she did. She counseled me through my exams, my dissertation, my job search, and my first book. She also encouraged me through the ups and downs of academic life. Indeed, I am occasionally reminded of another Kateism, “Academia will break your heart.” Like Kate, if you are willing to put your heart out there, if you are passionate about your teaching, students, and colleagues; if you are passionate about our discipline, the beauty of words, the facility to use words, and the justice words can bring about, your heart will be broken. But it will also be filled.

When I was about to begin my first tenure-track job, I asked Kate if she had any advice. Without hesitating, she said, “Love your students.” Kate believed that students do their best writing when they write about subjects they are passionate about, for someone who cares. I am especially reminded of these words amid the pandemic when kindness, understanding, and truly seeing our students as individuals with lives and struggles, may be our most important pedagogy.

In writing, “The Making of Available Means,” I drew on interviews with Kate and Joy Ritchie to share the story behind their foundational anthology of women’s rhetorics. At one point, I refer to the anthology as a “labor of love.” Beyond countless hours of their time, Kate and Joy spent their own money, and Kate even recruited her late husband Dennis to read drafts out loud as part of the proofreading process. Kate and Joy ardently believed that our field needed an accessible anthology of women’s rhetorics. The result was a text that has informed so many of us and our students about our rich, diverse, rhetorical legacy, as well as foundational questions that continue to guide our research and our own labors of love.

Shortly after Kate died, I listened again to a phone message she left me in the spring. “I’m so damn proud of you,” she said after I was promoted to full professor. In recent years, our conversations had shifted away from academia to politics, travel, basketball, and dogs. And every conversation ended with Kate saying, “I love you, darlin.” As a teacher, mentor, and friend, Kate did take me on for life, and throughout her life she showed me the answer to that initial question, where is the love. 

Works by Kate Ronald

Ronald’s works were compiled by Ann S. Updike as part of Charlotte Hogg and Meredith Love’s tribute. Works are listed in reverse chronological order.


  • Teaching Rhetorica: Theory, Pedagogy, Practice. Boynton-Cook, 2005. Co-edited with Joy Ritchie.
  • Available Means: An Anthology of Women’s Rhetoric(s). University of Pittsburgh Press, 2001. With Joy Ritchie.
  • Reason to Believe: Romanticism, Pragmatism, and the Teaching of Writing. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998. With Hephzibah Roskelly. Honorable Mention, Ross Winterowd Prize for Best Book in Rhetoric and Composition for 1998.
  • Farther Along: Transforming Dichotomies in Rhetoric and Composition. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann/Boynton/Cook Publishers, 1990. With Hephzibah Roskelly.

Articles and Chapters

  • “Philanthropy as Interpretation, not Charity: Jane Addams’ Civic Housekeeping as Another Response to the Progressive Era.” Invited response to Francis Ranney, “A Case Study in Difference: Fabricating a Feminine Self in a Man-Made Era.” Feminist Rhetorical Resilience, eds. Elizabeth A. Flynn, Patricia Sotirin, and Ann Brady. Utah State University Press, 2012. 174-177.
  • “Talking the Talk/Walking the Walk:  The Path of Feminist Rhetorics.” Foreword, Walking and Talking Feminist Rhetorics: Landmark Essays and Controversies, eds. Lindal Buchanan and Kathleen J. Ryan. Parlor Press, 2010. ix-x.
  • “‘Where Else Should Feminist Rhetoricians Be?’ Leading a WAC Initiative in a School of Business.” Performing Feminism and Administration in Rhetoric and Composition Studies, eds. Krista Ratcliffe and Rebecca Rickly. Utah State University Press, 2010. 159-171. With Cristy Beemer and Lisa Shaver.
  • “Foreword.” Rhetorica in Motion: Feminist Rhetorical Methods and Methodologies, eds. Eileen Schell and K.J. Rawson. Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh Press, 2010. ix-xii.
  • “Rhetoric and the Teaching of Composition.” The Present State of Scholarship in the History of Rhetoric: A Twenty-first Century Guide, eds. Lynee Lewis Gaillet and Winifred Bryan Horner. U of Missouri Press, 2010. 212-213; 234-235. With Hephzibah Roskelly.
  • “Literacy on the Margins of Power and Prestige: Louisa May Alcott’s Pragmatic Rhetoric.” Women and Literacy: Local and Global Inquiries for a New Century, eds. Peter Mortensen and Beth Daniell. Routledge, 2007. With Hephzibah Roskelly.
  • “Pedagogy and Public Engagement: The Uses of Women’s Rhetorics.” Rhetorical Woman, eds. Hildy Miller and Lillian Bridwell-Bowles. U of Alabama P, 2005: 206-228. With Joy Ritchie.
  • “Mothers, Spinsters, Othermothers: New Models for Women Mentors and Their Students.” Reinterpreting the Dissertation in Composition and Rhetoric: Reimagining the Discipline, eds. Nancy Welch, et. al. Portsmouth, NH:  Heinemann, 2003: 55-66. With Joy Ritchie and Hephzibah Roskelly.
  • “Embodied Voice:  Peter Elbow’s Physical Rhetoric.” Writing with Elbow, eds. Pat Belanoff, Sheryl Fontaine, Marcia Dickson, and Charles Moran. Utah State University Press, 2002: 210-223. With Hephzibah Roskelly.
  • “Learning to Take it Personally: The Ethics of Collaborative Writing.” Personal Effects: The Social Character of Scholarly Writing, eds. Deborah H. Holdstein and David Bleich. Utah State University Press, 2002: 253-267. With Hephzibah Roskelly.
  • “Untested Feasibility: Imagining the Pragmatic Possibility of Paulo Freire.” College English 63 (May 2001): 612-632. With Hephzibah Roskelly.
  • “‘Befriending’ Other Teachers: Communities of Teaching and the Ethos of Curricular Leadership.” Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition, and Culture 1 (Spring 2001): 317-327.
  • “Coming to Composition, or, A Collaborative Metanarrative of Professional Life.” Composition Studies 28 (2000): 59-79. With Dale Jacobs.
  • “From Transparency toward Expertise: Writing-Across-the-Curriculum as a Site for New Collaborations in Organizational, Faculty, and Instructional Development.” To Improve the Academy, Fall 2000. With Phil Cottell and Serena Hansen.
  • Review of Joseph Petraglia’s Reality By Design: The Rhetoric and Technology of Authenticity in Education (Lawrence Erlbaum, 1998), Journal of Advanced Composition 19.4 (1999): 747-754.
  • “How to Tell a True Teaching Story.” Review essay of Wendy Bishop, Teaching Lives: Essays and Stories (Utah State UP, 1997), Teaching College English and English Education: Reflective Stories, eds. H.T. McCracken, Richard L. Larson, with Judith Entes. National Council of Teachers of English, 1998; and Narration as Knowledge: Tales of the Teaching Life (Boynton/Cook Publishers, 1997), ed. Joseph F. Trimmer.College English 2.62 (November 1999): 255-264.
  • “Riding Long Coattails, Subverting Tradition: Why and How Feminists Should Teach Rhetoric(s).” Feminism and Composition Studies: In Other Words, eds. Susan C. Jarratt and Lynn Worsham. Modern Language Association, 1998: 217-238. With Joy Ritchie.
  • “Teaching Locally, Thinking Globally: Intersecting Contexts for the Introductory Composition Theory And Practice Course.” Composition Studies, 23 (Fall 1995): 59-66. With Joy Ritchie and Robert Brooke.
  • “What’s the Use of Stories that Aren’t True? A Composition Teacher Reads Creative Writing.”Teaching Writing Creatively, ed. David Starkey. Heinemann/Boynton/Cook, 1998: 1-14. First appeared in Carolina English Teacher, 1995/1996: 33-43. Issue republished nationally by NCTE, 1996.
  • “Literate Life Stories: Researching Our Lives as Writers and Readers,” Teacher Research, 1 (Fall 1993): 87-104. With Margrethe Ahlschwede, Susan Anderson, Rick Evans, Amy Ribble, and Joy Ritchie.
  • “Style: The Hidden Agenda in Composition Classrooms.” The Subject is Writing, ed. Wendy Bishop, Heinemann/Boynton/Cook, 1993: 53-70. Reprint. 1998.
  • Review of The Writing Center: New Directions, eds. Ray Wallace and Jeanne Simpson (Garland, 1991), Focuses (Summer 1991): 75-77.
  • Review of Marilyn Sternglass’s The Presence of Thought: Introspective Accounts of Reading and Writing (Norwood, 1988), Journal of Advanced Composition, 11 (1991): 224-226.
  • “Personal and Public Authority in Discourse: Beyond Subjective/Objective Dichotomies.” Farther Along: 25-40.
  • “Ann Berthoff’s Dialectic: Theory and Applications,” Issues in Writing, 1 (1989): 150-165.
  • “Another Competing Theory of Process: The Student’s.” Journal of Advanced Composition, 9 (1989): 83-97. With Jon Volkmer.
  • “On the Outside Looking In: Students’ Analysis of Academic and Professional Discourse Communities,” Rhetoric Review, 7 (1988): 130-147.
  • “Survival of the Fittest: Ten Years in a Basic Writing Program,” Journal of Basic Writing, 7 (1988): 13-30. Ed. Hephzibah Roskelly.
  • “The Politics of Teaching Professional Writing,” Journal of Advanced Composition, 7 (1987): 23-3. Reprinted in Landmark Essays in Advanced Composition, ed. Gary Olson. Hermagoras Press, 1996.
  • “The Self and the Other in the Process of Composing: Implications for Integrating the Acts of Reading and Writing.” Convergences: Essays on the Connections Between Reading, Writing, and Literacy, ed. Bruce Petersen. NCTE, 1986: 231-246
  • “Listening as an Act of Composing.” Journal of Basic Writing, 5, (1986): 28-40. With Hephzibah Roskelly.
  • “Expressive Writing: Exercises in a New Progymnasmata.” Journal of Teaching Writing, 4 (1985): 31-53. With Joseph J. Comprone.

Reprint of “The Making of Available Means,” an Anthology by Joy Ritchie and Kate Ronald

The following is a reprinted article from Peitho Journal 20.2, 2018, pp. 198-211. You can view the original article here.

I say that even later someone will remember me.


Joy Ritchie and Kate Ronald’s introduction to Available Means: An Anthology of Women’s Rhetoric(s), begins with these words from Sappho. Because of their anthology, which brings together rhetorical texts by 70 women stretching from 410 B.C.E. to 1999, Ronald and Ritchie will be remembered as women who helped introduce many current scholars and teachers, and many of their students to numerous women rhetors and the burgeoning field of women’s rhetoric. Ronald’s retirement in 2016,1 and Shari Stenberg and Charlotte Hogg’s current effort to create an updated collection of women’s rhetoric(s) in their forthcoming anthology Women’s Rhetorical Acts: Writing, Making, and Speaking in the 21st Century provides the perfect moment to reflect on the making of Available Means.2 I have known Kate Ronald since 2002. She taught the first women’s rhetoric course I took, she directed my dissertation, and she has remained a valuable mentor and a cherished friend. Consequently, I have heard bits and pieces of the Available Means story. In this essay, I draw on interviews with Ritchie and Ronald to share that story in order to provide historical context for this widely-used anthology, which was part of a comprehensive collaborative effort that included navigating a male-dominated department, building a composition program, and broadening conceptualizations of rhetorical history. Ultimately, this essay attempts to capture an important early moment in our field as well as the fraught and often messy process of anthologizing. It even gleans a few sage teaching suggestions from the collection’s creators.

Since its publication in 2001, Available Means has become a foundational text in women’s rhetoric. It is repeatedly cited in histories of the field, countless manuscripts, and in innumerable conference presentations. It is the second best-selling book, behind Jacqueline Jones Royster’s Traces of a Stream,3 out of the almost 80 titles in University of Pittsburgh’s Series in Composition, Literacy, and Culture, and it continues to be one of the most widely used texts for teaching graduate and undergraduate courses in women’s rhetoric, rhetorical history, and first-year writing.

Available Means has been an invaluable contribution to the field for so many reasons, but especially for the story of how it came about. Colleagues at University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), Ronald and Ritchie first began working together in a composition colloquium where faculty shared writing projects in progress. However, their true collaboration began when Ronald asked Ritchie to serve as co-coordinator of composition with her. “It was a teaching and administrative collaboration before it was a research and scholarly collaboration,” explains Ritchie.4 Yet, from the very beginning, “We knew we had to be allies.” “There was strength in numbers; even if the numbers were two,” adds Ronald. In 1984, Ronald and Robert Brooke were the first two hires in Rhetoric and Composition at UNL, and Ritchie, who transitioned to a tenure-track faculty position in 1987, was the third. Both Ritchie and Ronald acknowledge that it was daunting to speak out in the heavily literature- and male-dominated English Department. Administering together gave them the ability to talk to each other about decisions, problematize, and try out ideas before they went public. This was especially important because they did not have the authority most Writing Program Administrators (WPAs) have today. “We had a lot of responsibility, but no real authority,” explains Ronald.

Their administrative collaboration was both practical and philosophical. “It grew out of the sense that the production of knowledge is always collaborative,” observes Ritchie. It also provided a form of mentoring. While Ritchie had chaired a high school English Department, she had no writing program administrative experience; so, the collaboration provided her with valuable training. She says Ronald also had the foresight to know that someone else should be prepared to assume that role. In fact, Ronald and Ritchie employed a similar collaborative model when they hired two graduate student associate coordinators. One student focused on the Writing Center, and the other focused on working with new graduate teaching assistants, and they too could collaborate and learn from each other.

One reason for Ritchie and Ronald’s success as collaborators was their different strengths and perspectives. Ronald grounded her approach to teaching composition in classical and modern rhetorical theory and history. Ritchie had been a high school teacher, taught literature, and was a women’s studies faculty member, and her approach to teaching composition was influenced by Ann Berthoff, Peter Elbow, and Andrea Lunsford. “We came with slightly different perspectives but with the same commitment to teaching and feminism, and that set up our collaboration for years to come,” says Ritchie. Another reason for their successful collaboration was their genuine friendship and openness. Ritchie explains that they did not separate their professional and personal lives. “At the same time that we talked about TA assignments or how to combat incoming creative writers’ skepticism toward teaching composition, we were also talking about our mothers, our children, food, or lamenting that ‘I need to get my hair colored,’ or ‘I don’t have anything new to wear to 4C’s,’” she smiles. “We really liked each other,” adds Ronald, “we admired each other, and we made each other laugh.”

This mutual respect and collaborative spirit also extended to their classrooms. The germ for Available Means came about in 1994 when Ritchie sat in on Ronald’s graduate history of rhetoric seminar. Ronald was using the standard texts, which included few women, and both Ronald and Ritchie were struck by female students’ urgent and persistent question, “Where are the women?” As a result, they wrote a proposal for a graduate course titled, “The Rhetoric of Women Writers.” However, Ronald says they soon learned that teaching women’s rhetoric was a “scramble to find things. It required searching, Xeroxing and sometimes making random choices.” “There was no online,” adds Ritchie, who resorted to putting books on reserve in the library and even keeping books in a box outside of her office (“Cultivating”). At that time, there were few women’s anthologies available, and early collections such as Karlyn Kohrs Campbell’s Man Cannot Speak for Her: Key Texts of the Early Feminists (1989) and Shirley Wilson Logan’s With Pen and Voice: A Critical Anthology of African-American Women (1995) had a specific focus. For this class, Ritchie and Ronald wanted to include women’s rhetorical practices across a broad spectrum of contexts.

Fortunately, UNL was a pioneer in composition and rhetoric and women’s studies. UNL was committed to the National Writing Project, which aligned the English Department with K-12 teachers. Dudley Bailey, the former chair of UNL’s English Department was one of the founders of 4 Cs, and UNL made an early commitment to composition and rhetoric. UNL also had one of the first women’s studies programs in the country. “So, there were a lot of forces that came together making this the right time to do this work,” says Ritchie. Nonetheless, both Ritchie and Ronald acknowledge the struggle they initially faced interjecting their own voices into department discussions as well as interjecting women’s voices into department courses. In that sense, Ronald stresses that Available Means emerged out of their praxis, “especially if you think of praxis as the whole context of teaching, research, your life as a colleague in a department, and your personal convictions that teaching an all-male rhetorical canon was absurd.”

In the ‘80s, Ronald and Ritchie were two of ten female professors in an English Department of more than sixty. “It was not a welcoming climate for women even though two of the women were full professors, and quite formidable,” says Ronald. “We used to meet before faculty meetings to literally plan how to talk—to say something, anything, instead of staying silent in meetings.” During meetings, Ronald remembers that they encouraged each other with glimpses and nods. Years later, Ritchie would become department chair, but early on they struggled to assert their own voices at the same time that they fought to include women’s voices into the rhetorical tradition. “I had not studied women’s rhetoric, and when we taught rhetoric, we taught classical rhetoric and theorists like Burke,” says Ronald. “We didn’t teach women.” When the first edition of Patricia Bizzell and Bruce Herzberg’s Rhetorical Tradition: Readings from Classical Times to the Present came out in 1990, it had just a few women. Ronald says this reflects the debate at the time, which centered around the concern, “‘if you include her, that means you have to leave out him, and you can’t do that.’”

Barbara DiBernard, who taught literature and directed UNL’s Women’s Studies program, championed that debate at UNL. Ronald explains that every semester when book orders were due in the English Department, “there would be a memo in your mailbox from Barbara asking, ‘How many women authors are you including in your course?’ Of course, she was scoffed at by most of the men who said, ‘are you kidding me, there are no women in the canon.’” According to Ronald, there was one exception at Nebraska, the Willa Cather course. Cather was a UNL alum and winner of the 1922 Pulitzer Prize. Yet, DiBernard kept pushing to get more women’s texts into the classroom, and her efforts inspired Ritchie and Ronald. In fact, her name appears on the dedication page of Available Means.

Capturing a Critical Moment in the Field

They were also guided by scholars such as Lunsford, Lisa Ede, Cheryl Glenn, Logan, Royster, Susan Jarratt, and many more women who were trying to redress the silences around women in the rhetorical canon. Ritchie points to Lunsford’s call in Reclaiming Rhetorica asking scholars to interrupt, to listen, and to work collaboratively5 (“Cultivating”). Indeed, the conception and publication of Available Means came about as the field of women’s rhetoric was emerging and rapidly expanding. In 1995, in addition to Logan’s anthology, scholarly collections such as Catherine Hobbs’s Nineteenth-Century Women Learn to Write, and Lunsford’s Reclaiming Rhetorica: Women in the History of Rhetoric appeared on the landscape. Other foundational texts included Krista Ratcliffe’s Anglo-American Feminist Challenges to the Rhetorical Traditions: Virginia Woolf, Mary Daly, and Adrienne Rich (1995), Anne Gere’s Intimate Practices: Literacy and Cultural Work in U.S. Women’s Clubs, 1880-1920 (1997), Cheryl Glenn’s Rhetoric Retold: Regendering the Tradition from Antiquity Through the Renaissance (1997), Carol Mattingly’s Well-Tempered Women: NineteenthCentury Temperance Rhetoric (1998), Christine Mason Sutherland and Rebecca Sutcliffe’s The Changing Tradition: Women in the History of Rhetoric (1999) and Royster’s Traces of a Stream: Literacy and Social Change Among African American Women (2000). Available Means was also bolstered by discussions at the first biennial Feminism and Rhetorics Conference6 in 1997 where Ronald and Ritchie presented a paper, “Available Means/Necessary Acts: Reading Women’s Rhetorical Practices as Theory and Teaching Women’s Rhetorical Theory as Action.” They later published part of this paper in their essay, “Riding Long Coattails, Subverting Tradition: The Tricky Business of Feminists Teaching Rhetoric(s),” which “explores the tangled relations among feminist theory, feminist pedagogy, the canon of rhetoric, and emergent women’s rhetorics” (218).

With their collection, Ritchie and Ronald contributed to this burgeoning field by expanding the definitions of rhetorical theory and its history. They didn’t want to limit the anthology to women writing about writing or rhetorical theory. “We wanted to bridge that divide between theory and practice—to see practice as theory and theory as practice,” Ritchie explains. “We also wanted to argue that rhetorical history is not linear and fixed, but fluid and multiple” (“Cultivating”). Additionally, they wanted to explore some new and unrecognized contexts that women were writing out of and speaking to. “Women were writing from their own lives and locations such as the kitchen, the nursery, the bedroom, the garden, as well as the science lab, academy, courts, and even from the often denigrated and reviled women’s bodily experience,” explains Ritchie (“Cultivating”). They also wanted to show women’s strategies, which included opening up silences, interrupting the status quo, arguing from the personal, arguing from anger, but also using dialogue and conversation. “In other words, we wanted to see women making rhetoric come alive and thereby posit new and often innovative means,” says Ritchie (“Cultivating”). As they explain in their introduction to the collection, their choice of title, Available Means, “reflects our desire to locate women squarely within rhetoric but also to acknowledge that their presence demands that rhetoric be reconceived” (xvii).

Not only does Available Means introduce 70 women as rhetoricians, Ronald and Ritchie’s introduction to the collection and their introduction to each of these women and their texts, teaches students how to read, examine, understand, and appreciate women’s rhetoric. “I would say the introduction is written for scholars and the introductions to each text are directed at students,” says Ronald. “We’re really talking to the field in the introduction in a lot of ways.” While they knew the anthology would be used in graduate courses, because the need existed, they also wanted it to be used in undergraduate courses. However, Ronald stresses, “when we conceived this text it was many years before an undergraduate major in writing and rhetoric was even a glimmer in our eyes. The only undergraduate classes we taught were first-year composition.” The fact that Available Means is used in undergraduate rhetoric courses and even undergraduate women’s rhetoric courses today is a testament to field’s amazing growth and the text’s contribution and continued value. Certainly, anyone who has used Available Means will acknowledge that it is an easy text to put into undergraduate students’ hands because the collection’s introduction offers foundational questions for a course, and the introductions to each woman rhetor provides helpful historical context and rhetorical framing.

While the process of putting together the anthology was difficult, Ronald says choosing which 70 women to include was the greatest challenge. “At first, we wanted to include everything,” Ritchie laughs. Space limitations imposed difficult choices. There were also pieces they could not get permission for and pieces where the writer or agent never responded to their requests. For instance, Ronald laments that they could not get permission from Mary Daly, and texts by Gertrude Stein, Dorothy Parker, and Anita Hill were eliminated in the final stages because of space limitations. Having to excerpt texts also created problems. “It created issues of context and integrity,” says Ritchie. “There were pieces where we thought an excerpt won’t do this work justice.”

Before they faced those difficult choices, Ritchie and Ronald devoted a lot of time to gathering. “We both were aware of texts that we wanted to use that we found important as rhetorical texts from our teaching and from our own general reading,” explains Ritchie. They also mined work by Lunsford and Lisa Ede, Jarratt, Glenn, and other scholars as they started making lists. Ronald says, “We felt some obligation to chronology. We didn’t want to skip whole centuries.” Indeed, while some things were clear from the beginning others emerged alongside the project. For instance, Ritchie says, “We knew we needed a diversity of voices and perspectives. We couldn’t confine ourselves to the standard of pieces that would be in Bizzell and Herzberg—works that traditionally defined rhetorical theory and practice.” At the same time, they chose texts that show women using traditional rhetorical practices and theories and forging new ones.

The act of gathering was also full of discoveries. Ronald was delighted to find Hortensia and while she knew who Anna Julia Cooper was, she had never read her writing. Merle Woo and Nomy Lamm were two other women she did not know. Ritchie also notes how discovering one set of writers illuminated parallels with other writers. “Putting Audre Lorde alongside Quaker Margaret Fell or Ida B. Wells alongside Ruth Bader Ginsburg created dialogues that could enrich our study of women’s rhetoric,” she says (“Cultivating”). Certainly, that is one of Available Means’ greatest contributions; it demonstrates the different way we perceive women’s rhetoric when we are able to read women alongside other women instead of reading them inserted in anthologies overwhelmingly dominated by men. Prior to that, students might find a woman in an anthology every few hundreds of years. Ritchie explains, “We wanted to expose and problematize the whole conception of a few extraordinary women” (“Cultivating”). They chose texts that would bring to light material differences among women—sexuality, physicality, race, religion, nationality, etc. “We also chose texts that might unsettle us and unsettle our students,” says Ritchie (“Cultivating”).

Teaching with Available Means

Ronald acknowledges that Nomy Lamm’s “It’s a Big Fat Revolution” and “The Combahee River Collective Statement” were hard texts for her to teach. However, she stresses that it’s good for teachers to use texts they find unsettling. “Then you are actually reading with your students rather than telling them what the text means, or trying to cheerlead them into thinking this is a great text, which we all do,” observes Ronald. “That’s how we get our hearts broken in the classroom, because students don’t always love what we love.” For Ritchie, who describes herself as “a very secular person,” she says incorporating the rhetoric of religious women was both daunting and enlightening. Women like Margaret Fell and Dorothy Day stretched her perception of women’s rhetoric. Ritchie also says that Minnie Bruce Pratt’s “Gender Quiz,” which explored transgender and gender fluidity in the mid-90’s, was important for her at the time.

Both Ronald and Ritchie point to Dorothy Allison’s Two or Three Things I Know for Sure as imperative, but demanding. “I thought that was a crucial text in so many ways,” says Ritchie, “but I always held my breath a little and needed a little courage when I assigned it, especially in undergraduate classes.” In the text, Allison addresses issues of class, sexual assault, and sexuality. “It’s just such a painful text,” remarks Ritchie. “It challenged my students, and it also challenged me to think about how I can help students approach a text like this.” Whether it’s religion, sexuality, social class, “you want to help students identify their own assumptions,” she explains. “I remember saying to students, ‘As you read this think about why you are reacting a certain way, where is your response coming from, is there something in your background that has shaped this response?’”

In addition to texts that might challenge students, they also chose texts for Available Means that allowed them and their students to pursue epistemological questions: How is knowledge produced? What counts as evidence? What counts as truth? “Questions that are of enormous importance right now,” Ritchie asserts. Ronald says she almost always assigned Toni Morrison’s “Nobel Lecture in Literature,” because no matter the era, her class could apply it to the political rhetoric going on around them. To illustrate this, Ronald points to an excerpt:

The systematic looting of language can be recognized by the tendency of its users to forgo its nuanced, complex, mid-wifery properties, replacing them with menace and subjugations. Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge. (Morrison 419)

Like so many of the texts in Available Means, Morrison’s words are timeless, and continue to speak to students.

Indeed, Ronald stresses, “It’s the women in the collection that have made the anthology important and successful.” However, both Ritchie and Ronald are reluctant to name favorites. With coaxing, Ritchie admitted that Adrienne Rich and Audre Lorde stand out to her. “Those pieces especially, helped me see where my own commitments lay.” In addition to reiterating Morrison’s powerful message about ethics of language, Ronald says she cannot read the end of Alice Walker’s “The Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens” without crying. “But if I had to choose one,” she says, “it is Anna Julia Cooper’s ‘The Higher Education of Women.’ There is a feminine side and a masculine side. And it acknowledges a culture that has been raised by all men. I think it is brilliant, and just a beautiful, beautiful piece.”

In hindsight, Jane Addams and Ann Berthoff are two omissions Ronald regrets. To this day, she also laments that they did not discover and include Bathsua Makin, who in 1673 published, “An Essay to Revive the Ancient Education of Gentlewoman in Religion, Manners, Arts and Tongues With An Answer to the Objections Against This Way of Education.” In her chapter, “Feminist Perspective on the History of Rhetoric,” in the Sage Handbook for Rhetorical Studies, Ronald points to Makin as she cautions the field from becoming too self-congratulatory. In this tract, Makin includes a long catalog of women rhetors that scholars in our field have only recently recovered. Consequently, Ronald concludes, “We’re recovering what was lost, found, and then lost again” (149). Offering Makin as a cautionary tale, Ronald suggests that recovery and even publication of women’s rhetoric is not sufficient. Women’s rhetoric(s) must be taught.

Consequently, one of the most crucial measures of the texts in Available Means is how they work in the classroom. Ronald says she often began her women’s rhetoric courses with Hortensia’s “Speech to the Triumvirs,” Queen Elizabeth’s “To the Troops at Tilbury,” and “Cherokee Women Address Their Nation.” Because each of these texts demonstrate audience challenges that women face and women’s efforts to invoke ethos, “they immediately show students, particularly undergraduates, that it is different to speak as a woman,” says Ronald. In her personal copy of Available Means, she lists all the classes where she has assigned each text. Ida B. Wells, Terry Tempest Williams, bell hooks, and Andrea Dworkin are some of the texts she frequently used.

Ronald believes Wells’ “Lynch Law in All its Phases” is the perfect text to study audience and logical appeal. “There is hardly any emotional appeal there and she rarely speaks of herself,” she explains. “By employing logical appeals relentlessly, Wells is assuming that her audience is good men who clearly don’t know about the lynchings, because if they did they would do something about it.” Ronald used Williams “The Clan of One-Breasted Women” to show the blending of personal and public appeals that is so common in women’s rhetoric. She notes how Williams moves seamlessly back and forth from her own family’s experience with breast cancer to disquisitions on nuclear weapons. And she used hooks “Homeplace” to help students see how rhetorical theory comes from rhetorical action. “Particularly for women, rhetorical theory comes from physical embodied experience,” says Ronald.

Initially, Ronald worried about putting Andrea Dworkin’s “I Want a 24 Hour Truce During Which There is Not Rape” in the anthology. “Not because I didn’t think she was dead right,” she says, “but because students might think she was so shrill. However, I found it is the perfect essay to teach audience, ethics, and ethos.” Ronald has also used Susan B. Anthony’s The United States of America v. Susan B. Anthony to demonstrate stasis theory, and she has used Zora Neal Hurston’s “Crazy for this Democracy” to illustrate women’s use of humor. “The text is so funny, so my classes talked about whether it’s ok for women to be funny,” explains Ronald. She also found that some texts work better with graduate students than undergraduates and vice versa.

In her teaching with Available Means, Ritchie was continually struck by the way students found essays or writers that really spoke to them and their situation. “It’s amazing to think that Hortensia inspires students today. That’s the marvel and fun—the myriad connections and cross currents.” Nonetheless, Ritchie admits that it was sometimes a challenge to get students to move beyond reactions and ask the appropriate questions such as: What definition of woman was the writer working from? What traditions, laws, or norms were they working out of, or resisting? What were their methods and available means? What did they seek to accomplish? “While I want students to discuss the impact of the pieces on their life, I also want them to approach the pieces rhetorically,” stresses Ritchie.

Similarly, Ronald continually asked students: What’s the rhetorical situation? Who is speaking to whom? What is their argument? How are they making it? What are the syllogisms? What are the enthymemes? What are the appeals? What kind of style are they using—high, low, medium? “I didn’t want students to come away from this text simply with a sense of awe about these women—‘weren’t they brave, weren’t they incredible?’ Yes,” says Ronald, “but what can we learn from them, how did they manage to do what they’re doing, and how might you deploy a similar kind of strategy?”

In the same way they hoped that their collection would change their students, Ronald and Ritchie admitted that the collection changed them and their teaching. Ritchie began assigning papers connected to action research. Students in her classes did outreach projects, some volunteered in the Women’s Studies Center, she even had a student do an ethnography at a battered women’s shelter. “That was really different for my teaching,” says Ritchie, “but I wanted to encourage students to take the next step and put what they were reading and learning into practice some way. I wanted them to understand that they could be active rhetoricians themselves. I think it’s Minnie Bruce Pratt who says, we have to ‘give theory flesh and breath.’”7

Ronald says that working on Available Means led her to be more conscientious about asking “what am I missing?” In terms of her teaching, she says the collection has taught her “how identity is inherent in the rhetorical situation and rhetoric is always about uncertainty and power.” She notes that Gloria Steinem’s essay “Supremacy Crimes” is especially effective in showing this. In this 1999 essay, Steinem wrote, “I think we begin to see that our national self-examination is ignoring something fundamental, precisely because it’s like the air we breathe: the white male factor, the middle-class and heterosexual one, and the promise of superiority it carries” (494). Given the murders of African American men and women, President Trump’s election, and the current political climate, Ronald stresses how Steinem’s text still speaks to us today.

Often Ronald used Available Means in her first-year writing courses. “There is no exigence like that of being a woman,” she asserts. “I mean if you want to teach rhetoric there is no better way to teach it than to consider how you persuade the powerful when you have no power.” Furthermore, she says, “Teaching women’s rhetoric teaches the rhetorical context and the rhetorical triangle in stark, stark ways that first-year writers get immediately. Instead of using a JFK speech, it is much more effective to use Angelina Grimké. Plus, they don’t consider women rhetors, and dammit, they should!”

A Labor of Love

One of the most telling facets of the making of Available Means are the logistics, which underscores that the anthology was a labor of love. Ritchie and Ronald admit there are many trials to putting together an anthology. Ronald says their process in the mid-to-late ‘90s “almost seems like the middle ages today.” “We photocopied, photocopied, and photocopied,” explains Ritchie. And after Ronald accepted a position at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, they began shipping pages back and forth between Nebraska and Ohio. “We had a copy of every text (70 plus), and a grid that we laid out indicating who would write the introduction, whether we had obtained the permission, what the fee was, whether we had paid it, who paid it, and so on,” explains Ritchie. Indeed, payment for copyrights was no small matter; the cost totaled a daunting ten thousand dollars. While they received some funding assistance from the UNL and Miami University, Ronald and Ritchie paid most of it themselves; that’s how much they believed in the project. According to Ronald, Alice Walker’s piece was the most expensive, but she promises that’s not why reading it always brings her to tears.

Ronald and Ritchie are quick to acknowledge that compiling the anthology was a collaborative effort not only between themselves, but also with the women writers included in the collection, women scholars across the country, and librarians, who were invaluable in helping them track down first appearances, first editions, and copyright holders for obscure volumes. They also involved their students. Some graduate students helped with head notes, undergraduates helped gather bibliographic information. And everyone helped proofread, especially Ronald’s late husband, Dennis. Ronald explains that all the primary texts that appear in the collection were scanned, and while that was better than typing everything, the unreliability of scanners at the time meant everything had to be closely proofread. In fact, Ronald’s husband read the entire book out loud with her—over 500 pages of copy—to compare the manuscript with the original text including punctuation. For several months, Ronald says their talk around the house was punctuated.

“Quotation mark, have you let the dogs out, comma, Dear, question mark, quotation mark.
Quotation mark, Kate, comma that was a delicious dinner, exclamation point, quotation mark.”

Despite their best efforts, in the back of her personal copy of Available Means, Ronald has a running list of errors. She regrets that the publisher did not allow them to do a second edition around 2004 or 2005. “That was a real disappointment,” she says. “We would have corrected the errors and switched out some pieces.”

While Ritchie and Ronald never had the opportunity to update the collection, Charlotte Hogg and Shari Stenberg have decided to continue the work by putting together a new anthology of women’s rhetoric(s). Both have a direct lineage to Available Means. Hogg was in one of Ronald’s undergraduate courses at UNL, and she was also in one of Ritchie’s early Rhetoric of Women Writers graduate courses for which Available Means was initially envisioned. And in 2007, when Stenberg joined Ritchie as a colleague at UNL, Ritchie invited her to begin teaching the Rhetoric of Women Writers course.

Describing the need for a new collection, Hogg explains, “While an explosion of theoretical, methodological, and historiographic texts in the field of women’s rhetoric have been published since the turn of the century, there still isn’t another book like Available Means with primary works grounded in context and history with a rhetorical focus” (“Creating”). She believes that a new anthology is especially needed in undergraduate courses filled with students who are about the same age as Available Means and immersed in new literacy practices. Some of the exigencies Stenberg and Hogg point to that are driving the need for a new collection include third wave or new feminisms; new means of persuasion; globalization, transnationalism, and climate change; and questions about what constitutes woman or gender fluidity. Hogg and Stenberg anticipate that Women’s Rhetorical Acts will highlight up to 40 contemporary female rhetors, including well-known voices such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Hillary Clinton, Melissa Harris-Perry, Marjane Satrapi, Lindy West, as well as voices less known—or even unknown—such as the Stanford rape victim and “Riverbend,” the anonymous Baghdad Blog author. In a time when more platforms and media include more voices, Stenberg and Hogg consider the rhetorical work from blogs, podcasts, or YouTube that has in one way been an equalizer and in another demonstrated the kind of rhetorical resilience against exclusion that women have faced for centuries.

Ronald and Ritchie are delighted that Hogg and Stenberg are continuing the project. Moreover, they believe this new anthology needs to be guided by the next generation of scholars. Of course, it is a generation of scholars who grew out of the flourishing field of women’s rhetoric that Ritchie and Ronald’s anthology has helped cultivate. Inspired by students’ persistent question, “Where are the women?” Available Means helped make it possible to teach women’s rhetoric courses. Along with the substantial work of other scholars in women’s rhetoric, Available Means has also contributed to the reconception of rhetorical history; thus, paying homage to Sappho’s words.


  1. Ritchie previously retired in 2010.
  2. I am grateful to Joy Ritchie and Kate Ronald, who allowed me to interview them. They even took the time to search old files to answer some of my questions. I want to thank Charlotte Hogg and Shari Stenberg for their assistance. After working on this essay, I am especially grateful for their efforts create a new anthology. I also want to thank Jess Enoch, one of my Peitho reviewers, and Jane Greer and Liz Tasker Davis, my wonderful writing group, who read drafts of this essay and offered several helpful suggestions.
  3. Royster, Jacqueline Jones. Traces of a Stream: Literacy and Social Change Among African American Women. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2001.
  4. Unless otherwise indicated, quotes from Ritchie and Ronald were drawn from telephone interviews.
  5. See Andrea A. Lunsford’s “On ReClaiming Rhetorica” in Reclaiming Rhetorica: Women in the Rhetorical Tradition. Ed. Andrea A. Lunsford. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1995: 3-8.
  6. The biennial Feminisms and Rhetorics Conference is sponsored Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition, which was organized in 1989 as the Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition.
  7. See Minnie Bruce Pratt’s “Gender Quiz” in Available Means pg. 434.

Works Cited

  • Hogg, Charlotte. “Creating Change: Furthering Available Means across Generations.” Conference on College Composition and Communication. Oregon Convention Center. 16 March 2017. Conference Presentation.
  • Lunsford, Andrea A. “On Reclaiming Rhetorica.” In Reclaiming Rhetorica: Women in the Rhetorical Tradition. Ed. Andrea A. Lunsford. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1995: 3-8. Print.
  • Morrison, Toni. “The Nobel Lecture in Literature.” (1993) In Available Means: An Anthology of Women’s Rhetoric(s). Eds. Joy Ritchie and Kate Ronald. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2001, 417-423. Print.
  • Pratt, Minnie Bruce. “Gender Quiz.” (1995) In Available Means: An Anthology of Women’s Rhetoric(s). Eds. Joy Ritchie and Kate Ronald. Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P, 2001. 425-34. Print.
  • Ritchie, Joy. “Cultivating Capacities: Anthologizing to Theorize an Emerging Field.” Conference on College Composition and Communication. Oregon Convention Center. 16 March 2017. Conference Presentation
  • —. Telephone interview. 21 Feb. 2017; 13 Nov. 2017.
  • Ritchie, Joy and Kate Ronald. “Introduction: A Gathering of Rhetorics.” In Available Means: An Anthology of Women’s Rhetoric(s). Eds. Joy Ritchie and Kate Ronald. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2001. xv-xxxi. Print.
  • —. “Riding Long Coattails, Subverting Tradition: The Tricky Business of Feminists Teaching Rhetoric(s).” In Feminism and Composition Studies: In Other Words. Eds. Susan Jarratt and Lynn Worsham. New York: MLA, 1998. 217-38. Print.
  • Ronald, Kate. “Feminist Perspectives on the History of Rhetoric.” In Sage Handbook of Rhetorical Studies. Eds. Andrea Lunsford, Kirt Wilson, and Rosa Eberly. London: GBR Sage Publications, 2008. 139-152. Print
  • —. Telephone interview. 29 Sept. 2016; 30 Nov. 2017.
  • Steinem, Gloria. “Supremacy Crimes.” (1999) In Available Means: An Anthology of Women’s Rhetoric(s). Eds. Joy Ritchie and Kate Ronald. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2001. 491-494.
  • Stenberg, Shari. University of Nebraska-Lincoln, “Creating Change: Transversing Gender and Geography.” Conference on College Composition and Communication. Oregon Convention Center. 16 March 2017. Conference Presentation.