Sneak Preview: The women of the book

Chapter One in What She Said is all about providing guidance, advice and wisdom.

Appreciating the nature of the relationship between speaker and audience is important in crafting and delivering a speech that bestows guidance, advice and wisdom.

This relationship is usually somewhat unequal. This is not to say that that speaker is in any way better, but in the context of the advice, they have the upper hand. Their expertise, achievement, seniority (or some other distinguishing factor) creates in the minds of the audience a desire to listen and to extract meaning.

– Excerpt from Chapter One, WHAT SHE SAID

Four remarkable speeches are features in this chapter. Each one is notable for the change that is effected in the hearts and minds of the audience.

Michelle Obama

Former first lady of the United States, author and speaker

When they go low, we go high

When: 26 July 2016

Where: Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia

On 26 July 2016, the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, spoke in support of Hillary Clinton in front of approximately 50000 people at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Philadelphia. This convention confirmed Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee for president in the upcoming election, opposing Donald Trump as the Republican nominee.


Nora Ephron

Writer and filmmaker

Be the heroine of your life

When: 3 June 1996

Where: Wellesley College

Nora Ephron is the American writer and filmmaker that brought us such classics as Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle and Julie and Julia. So, you would no doubt expect sharp wit combined with humour from her—and this speech delivers both. It is imbued with her trademark insight and personality. Ephron goes further than this, however, delivering
a compelling feminist message and a warning to the graduating class of Wellesley College in 1996.



Florence Nightingale

Social reformer and founder of modern nursing

What makes a good nurse

When: May 1881

Where: Trainee Nurses at St Thomas’ Hospital

The ‘Lady with the Lamp’—Florence Nightingale—is a symbol of care and compassion, making the rounds of wounded soldiers during the Crimean War.
In 1860 she established a secular school for nursing at St Thomas’ Hospital in London and set about professionalising the role of the nurse for women. Her legacy continues in the profession with the Nightingale Pledge and the Florence Nightingale Medal.


Virginia Woolf


Shakespear’s Sister

When: 1928

Where: The University of Cambridge

Bloomsbury novelist Virginia Woolf was known for her innovative approach to writing and her non-linear storylines. She was complicated and complex in both her character and the way she made sense of the world. The writer made a significant impact on modern fiction and continues to fascinate readers 80 years after she died. In addition to writing fiction, Woolf was prolific in her exploration of ideas and opinions through letters, essays and talks.