List of Feminist Rhetoricians - Mary Augusta Jordan

Mary Augusta Jordan

(1855–1941) Mary Augusta Jordan was a professor of English at Smith College from 1884 to 1921. Born to Augusta Woodbury Ricker and Edward Jordan, she and her sisters were provided with the best educational opportunities; namely, Jordan's father sent her to college in 1872 instead of her brother when finances allowed him to send only one child. She graduate in 1876, becoming a Vassar Librarian before earning her Master's of the Arts in English in 1878. In 1884, the Smith College President L. Clark Seelye lured her away from Vassar to his college: she became an assistant professor in rhetoric and Anglo-Saxon; she was able to maintain her teaching positions until she retired in 1921 because she never married, as was custom at that time.

In 1906, she became a full professor at Smith College, as well as the head of the English Department while also serving as an informal adviser to three Smith presidents. As a professor, she was known to encourage honesty and freedom of expression and motivated student self-criticism without loss of self-confidence.

In 1910, she was presented with a Smith College honorary doctorate of Humane Letters, and in 1921, she was then presented with a Syracuse University doctorate of Pedagogy. In that same year, she retired from her teaching position and went to New Haven. She eventually died in 1941.

As for her writings, Jordan encouraged an understanding of "proper" usage of English grammar, but she acknowledged that writing and speaking embodied different aspects of the English language. "Proper" English was, according to her, whatever one interpreted it to be and how one proceeded to use it.

  • Correct Writing and Speaking (1904)
  • Shakespeare and the Presumptions
  • Assets and Liabilities of Present-Day English
  • Nobless Oblige
  • Spacious Days at Vassar

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