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Dublin: 7 °C Saturday 19 October, 2019

My favourite speech: Owner and CEO of Harmonia, Norah Casey

Continuing our series on of public figures’ favourite speeches, a former dragon to the den chooses a speech from the women’s suffrage movement in the US.

Norah Casey
Norah Casey
Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

THE AUTHOR AND former presidential speechwriter Peggy Noonan once said: “A speech is poetry: cadence, rhythm, imagery, sweep! A speech reminds us that words, like children, have the power to make dance the dullest beanbag of a heart.”

One can not underestimate the power of a good speech or the effectiveness of a speech’s key line.

With that in mind, is asking some of the most prominent figures in Irish society from politicians to sports stars to nominate their favourite speech of all time and tell us why they like it so much.

Today: Publisher and owner of Harmonia, Ireland’s largest magazine publishing company, Norah Casey. She writes:

Susan Brownell Anthony was a woman way ahead of her time and had a significant influence on civil rights in the US in the 1800s, most notably on anti-slavery and women’s rights. What I admire most about is that she articulated the argument for a woman’s right to vote so cleverly. She made this speech after she was arrested for voting (illegally) in the presidential election of 1872 – at the time women were not entitled to vote. Before her trial she delivered her impassioned address. The central thrust of her argument was that the American constitution (the fourteenth amendment) guaranteed to preserve the rights of “all persons” not just men. Here’s how she put it:

“It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union. And we formed it, not to give the blessings of liberty, but to secure them; not to the half of ourselves and the half of our posterity, but to the whole people – women as well as men. And it is a downright mockery to talk to women of their enjoyment of the blessings of liberty while they are denied the use of the only means of securing them provided by this democratic-republican government – the ballot.”

However the New York Supreme Court judge who heard the case seven months after she was arrested refused to allow her to testify and he instructed the jury to return a guilty verdict. She was fined $100 and in typical style responded: “I shall never pay a dollar of your unjust penalty”. And she never did.

What is even more amazing about her speech was that she was a very nervous public speaker but in the interests of her various causes she overcame that and went on to be one of the most influential leaders in woman’s suffrage.

As an end note I also feel a bit of a connection with her. She was feisty and determined and she was also a magazine publisher having first produced the women’s rights weekly, The Revolution, in 1868 – its motto was “The true republic—men, their rights and nothing more; women, their rights and nothing less”.

The Executive Committee of the International Council for Women at a meeting in July 1899. Susan Brownell Anthony is second from left in the front row. (PA/TOPHAMS/Topham Picturepoint/Press Association Images)

The full speech to the court by Susan B Anthony can be read here.

You can watch actors reenacting the scenes from the court case here:

(Via YouTube/)

Read more from our ‘Favourite Speeches’ series

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