Abstract

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, currently a member of the African National Congress's National Executive Committee, is most widely known as the former wife of Nelson Mandela. While she continues to be a popular politician in South Africa, she has essentially disappeared from the U.S. imagination. A rhetorical analysis of the U.S. popular press about Winnie Mandela reveals that although she was primarily seen as Mother of the Nation in South Africa, in the U.S. she was constructed as a rhetorical widow. A rhetorical widow is a woman, widowed or not, whose rhetorical exigency and authority comes from her husband's inability to speak. This case study demonstrates that although the rhetorical use of traditional gender roles, such as widowhood, provides an elevated platform from which women can speak, it also transforms women from credible individuals in their own right to the role of simple mouthpieces.

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