English Ph.D. Dissertations


Female Fabrications: An Examination of the Public and Private Aspects of Nüshu

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Sue Carter Wood (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

Kristine L. Blair (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Richard C. Gebhardt (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Jaclyn Cuneen (Committee Member)


Nüshu is a Chinese women’s script used by uneducated rural women in Jiangyong County, Hunan Province, in China to communicate and correspond with one another, cope with their hardships, and promote creativity. In the field of rhetoric and composition, despite the enormous interest in women’s rhetorics and material culture, sources on Nüshu in relation to the two fields are scarce. In relation to Nüshu, examinations of American domestic arts, such as quilts, scrapbooking, and so on, material rhetoric are becoming popular. In my research, I examine Nüshu through public and private discourse as well as aspects of material rhetoric. My research comprises real voices, collected data from previous researchers, and some Chinese history. A benefit of my proposed research for both western and eastern scholars in the fields of rhetoric and women’s studies is that the interviews that I will conduct, particularly those with teachers and students of Nüshu, add individual practitioners to a body of scholarship that is characterized more by the voices of scholars than practitioners. This research contributes to Western scholars’ study of women’s rhetorics and material culture, adding yet another literary practice through which to view the intersections of gender, culture, and language to a field where women’s rhetorics and material culture have been studied extensively. And for the small emerging academic discussions of Nüshu, this study will help draw the attention of Western scholars to this interesting and unusual literate practice.