Denise Graveline: Outspoken Champion of Well Spoken Women

"The Eloquent Woman" is silent now, but the rhetoric community will benefit from her good work for many years to come.

In 2011, in response to the question, Where can I find examples of great women’s speeches?,” Denise Graveline created “Famous Speech Friday” on her blog, The Eloquent Woman.

Week after week, she would add another speech to the Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Speeches by Women. An accomplished speaking coach, communication professional and fierce advocate of women speakers, Graveline passed away this week in Washington, D.C.

In her final post, last Friday, she praised Ashton Applewhite’s TED Talk, “Let’s stop ageism.”

Over the years, Graveline helped thousands of speakers in every profession get their points across more powerfully and persuasively. In addition to The Eloquent Woman blog, she published the weekly don’t get caught blog  Each blog was a compendium of advice, tips, and exhortations on communication and social media.

Graveline coached for the annual TEDMED conference and at TEDx conferences around the world. She also led workshops, published ebooks, and shared her expertise with corporations, federal government agencies, universities, and nonprofits.

But it was as an advocate for women speakers that she made her most powerful impact.

Never mistaken for a wallflower, Graveline was outspoken, even blunt, in expressing her beliefs. “She was indignant that half of the world’s population wasn’t given a fair shot, or fair pay, or a fair voice,” says her friend and fellow TEDMED coach Peter Botting.

“She always said that because of her experiences, she had a cast iron stomach,” Botting says. “But underneath she was a big softie.”

In the years since she founded the Eloquent Woman Index, Graveline collected 275 speeches by women, by far the largest online collection of speeches by women.

In a post on February 2 in honor of Black History Month, Graveline celebrated the milestone of having published a remarkable 50 speeches by African-American women. She listed the speeches in chronological order – from Sojourner Truth’s 1851 “Ain’t I a Woman?” to Kamala Harris’s resistance last summer to attempts to silence her in a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing.

With each entry, Graveline shared links to video, photos, transcripts or texts, along with lessons readers could take away to improve their public speaking.

She also led The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, a community for discussing public speaking.

Last August, Denise found herself in an out of the hospital, battling lymphoma and then Guillain-Barré syndrome, which robbed her of her voice. For the first time in years, her blog fell silent.

By December she rebounded, using dictation software to post her blogs. She shared upbeat, ambitious goals for 2018 and was planning  a trip to the UK.

Graveline made a routine visit to the hospital in early February and caught a fatal infection. She passed away February 9.

A month earlier, taking a long look at the current political moment and its impact on women, she challenged her readers: “The fulcrum of history, the pivot point, is here,” she said. “So the question in 2018 for women who speak in public is: How will you use this moment?

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