Date of Award

Summer 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Director

Lindal Buchanan

Committee Member

Bridget Anderson

Committee Member

Jessica Enoch

Committee Member

Daniel Richards


This dissertation builds on recent feminist rhetorical scholarship of women’s entrance into the workplace by considering women’s fire department contributions across the twentieth century, from ladies auxiliaries, to volunteer firefighting, to career firefighting, taking up the call to examine “larger histories of gender” to explore re/gendering in different times and places of professions, labor, and workspaces (Hallenback and Smith 201-202). Expanding Lindal Buchanan’s theory of collaboration by bringing in sociology research on crisis, I offer a framework for understanding gendering and women’s movement into and out of foreground fire department service: during the crisis of fire, if there are insufficient responders, gender roles flex and women are welcomed into the “man’s work” of firefighting, at least briefly until the crisis is resolved. This model explains women’s acceptance into temporary and volunteer firefighting positions, and the continued resistance to women as career firefighters; in the career fire department, staffed by full time employees, there are always enough responders, and so gendering is rigid. The career fire department continues to be characterized by gender antithesis, which “continually figure[s] men’s bodies as strong and women’s bodies as weak” (Jack 290). Women have continued to move forward, however, gaining and maintaining careers through transferring a range of literacy practices into the fire department, and eventually building collaborative networks with each other.

Viewing women’s workplace experiences through the interaction of gendering, collaboration, and crisis creates a rich approach applicable across professions. A quick survey suggests this framework would be productive for theorizing women’s entrance into professions during World War 1 and 2, as seen in research by Jordynn Jack, Jessica Enoch, and in the edited collection Women and Rhetoric between the Wars by Ann George, Elizabeth Weiser, and Janet Zepernick. Additionally, by taking a “long view”, this project recovers and re-values fire department ladies auxiliaries and contributes to feminist rhetorical studies of working women, a current gap in scholarly knowledge. The lens of collaboration and crisis of women’s workplace contributions reveals the history of complexities in re/gendering a profession, as well as providing a way to look forward.


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