Date of Award

Spring 2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Director

David Metzger

Committee Member

Jennifer Fish

Committee Member

Dana Heller


The purpose of this focuses on the autobiographical rhetoric and public identity of Annie Smith Peck, a scholar, mountain climber and woman rhetor from the turn of the century. My qualitative case study of Peck examines how she worked as a woman rhetor to create a popular identity for herself in both mountain climbing and scholarship. I also focus on how Peck worked to identify herself with her audience; here, I use Burke's concept of "identification," as a way of adding to (rather than substituting for) traditional rhetoric. My project brings new findings in that I examine data on Peck (including her biographical notes, personal letters, and correspondence), which have not been previously used as a source of scholarship. These cultural artifacts not only echo societal and gender norms, but they also work to create these norms as well as break them.

Peck inspired some of her public audience to question what it meant for women to step outside of the constrictions of feminine attire and the domestic sphere and into the professional realm and sphere of action. In fact, media outlets such as the New York Times used Peck's image as a springboard for examining societal and gender norms in general. From this perspective, Peck's life can be viewed as a series of performances or reputations built upon those performances, each containing different rhetorical possibilities. Because Peck left her own writings, letters, and biographical notes behind, she worked as a kind of rhetorical autobiographer, or someone whose life and identity were based on her own rhetorical shaping. Most significantly, Peck discloses that she used her image in the media to create a rhetorical stratagem for the advancement of women and used her climbing career as a way of challenging the traditional notions of sex and gender at the time.