Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Committee Member

Ed Nagelhout

Second Committee Member

John M. Bowers

Third Committee Member

Julie Staggers

Fourth Committee Member

Ralph Buechler

Number of Pages



As one of the most popular conduct manuals in the early seventeenth century, Dorothy Leigh's The Mothers Blessing is often categorized as private, domestic literature. In this dissertation, I examine the strategies Leigh employed to create ethos, and I argue that her strategic depiction of herself as a "fearefull, faithfull, carefull" mother helped her authorize herself as a public figure. Specifically, I investigate the strategies Leigh employed to create a persuasive ethos within the genre of the conduct manual. Through mother-based ethos strategies, Leigh presented herself deliberately, augmenting her authority as Mother and positioning her work within a male-dominated print culture that demanded silence, obedience, and chastity of women. Leigh uses Mother rhetorically to carve out her place as a confident woman and to position herself as the Mother, who the conduct manual into a place for public discourse. I position Dorothy Leigh's The Mothers Blessing in the context of several seventeenth-century political, social, and religious debates, and I argue that Leigh should be seen as a public figure whose career was eminently rhetorical.


Character; Conduct manuals; Conduct of life; Criticism; Ethos; Genre; History of rhetoric; Leigh; Dorothy; active 17th century; Mother's blessing; Rhetoric; Seventeenth century; Seventeenth-century women's literature; Women authors


Rhetoric | Women's Studies