‘Mister Speaker! I therefore have no claim’ – Agda Östlund’s Entrance in the Parliamentary Debate in March 1922 in a Historical and Rhetorical Perspective
Keywords:Agda Östlund, Swedish parliament 1920s, women’s civil and democratic rights in Sweden, working-class health, tuberculosis, the mother role as a rhetorical strategy
In March 1922 the Social Democrat Agda Östlund (1870–1942) speaks as the first female member of Swedish Parliament in the Second Chamber due to her own proposal for the state to take responsibility for arranging suitable work for tuberculosis patients when they leave the sanatorium, so that they can complete their convalescence. It may seem that democracy was once and for all established when women were finally included in the Parliament. But that was not the case. The question is how Agda Östlund acts in a formative historical stage after the first democratic election, how she finds a speaking position and how her speech can be understood in relation to the negotiation of the meaning of women’s civil and democratic rights.
This article includes a contextualisation and a text analysis where I go into how the text relates to a rhetorical situation. I see Agda Östlund’s utterances as rhetorical in accordance with the theoretical perspectives established by Lloyd F. Bitzer where the key concepts are rhetorical situation, problem, restrictions and audience. Agda Östlund uses the mother role as a rhetorical strategy, connects the issue of tuberculosis to the home and everyday environment and nursing, which are traditionally female spheres, and highlights class injustice in the possibility of completing convalescence after sanitation. The mother role and the factual and low-key argumentation have two purposes in this speech – partly to adapt to the Parliament order, and partly to present the actual issue. The rhetorical strategy is about using the mother role as a persona to make the class perspective a matter of care, nursing and compassion.
Östlund’s entry into the Parliament debate can be described as a rhetorically fragile situation because she speaks for the very substance of her own motion while at the same time following the committee’s line, in which she herself is a part, and demands a rejection of it.
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Copyright (c) 2022 Magnus Gustafson
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