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Abstract

In 1780, during the final stretch of the American Revolutionary War, Esther Reed penned the broadside "Sentiments of an American Woman." It circulated in Philadelphia, persuading citizens to turn over their last dollars to the cause. Reed's broadside called to action the women of Philadelphia; they knocked on doors, campaigned with words, and stepped firmly into the "man's world" of politics and revolution. Reed's words were so effective that women in cities across the colonies took to raising money as well. Using New Historicist and feminist reading strategies, this study compares and contrasts Reed's rhetoric to Thomas Paine's Common Sense, another revolutionary propaganda piece of the era. I argue that the two pieces differ in key aspects due to Paine's prominence in the public sphere and Reed's in the private. From her position in the private sphere, Reed was able to produce a provocative piece of rhetoric that stands out against other female literary works of the time.

KEYWORDS: rhetoric, propaganda, feminism, Esther Reed, Thomas Paine, Common Sense, literature, revolutionary war

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