Skip to main content
Women's Rhetorical Agency in the American West: The New Penelope
Women's Studies in Communication (2009)
  • Casey R. Kelly, Butler University
This essay theorizes women's rhetorical agency in the nineteenth-century American West. Contrast between fluid gender norms in frontier life and the Cult of True Womanhood highlights how agency is confined by materiality. Agency is the capacity to recognize and act in moments when material structures are vulnerable to resignification. I offer an analysis of Frances Fuller Victor's novella The New Penelope to demonstrate how pioneer women writers reinvented womanhood in light of socioeconomic changes. This paper was nominated for the ORWAC Feminist Scholarship Award.
Publication Date
Spring 2009
Citation Information
Casey R. Kelly. "Women's Rhetorical Agency in the American West: The New Penelope" Women's Studies in Communication Vol. 32 Iss. 2 (2009)
Available at: