"Who Are You and I...?": The Rhetoric of Identity in the Aloha Eagles Letters
Hayes, Rebecca Joy
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In 1969, four years before the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, Aloha Eagles, a Republican legislator in the North Dakota House of Representatives, proposed a House Bill 319 to legalize abortion in North Dakota. Throughout the legislative session, Eagles corresponded with many North Dakotans regarding the bill. This study asks how Eagles and her correspondents construct identities, such as mother, citizen, or medical professional, to support or oppose abortion. Using rhetorical and archival research methods to examine rhetorics of identity in 78 pairs of letters between Eagles and her correspondents, the study reveals that writers construct marital, professional, parental, religious, and civic identities literally, implicitly, and metaphorically as a form of rhetorical action. By articulating identities in these ways, writers contest the meanings of identity categories and attempt to shape who is sanctioned to speak on the issue of abortion.