Informed, Passionate, and Disorderly: Uncivil Rhetoric in a New Gilded Age

Nancy Welch

Abstract


Little known about the now celebrated 1912 Bread and Roses strike is that prominent Progressive-era reformers condemned the strikers as “uncivil” and “violent.” An examination of Bread and Roses’ controversies reveals how a ruling class enlists middle-class sentiments to oppose social-justice arguments and defend a civil order—not for the good of democracy but against it. For today’s teachers of public writing, the strikers’ inspiring actions to push against civil boundaries and create democratic space can challenge us to rethink civility as an acontextual virtue and consider the class-struggle uses of unruly rhetoric for our new Gilded Age.

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Publication of the Community Literacy Journal is made possible through the generous support of the English Department and the Writing and Rhetoric Program at Florida International University. The CLJ is a journal of the Conference on Community Writing.