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The Spike: or, Victoria College Review, October 1913

The Women's Oratorical Contest

page 47

The Women's Oratorical Contest.

The Women's Oratorical Contest was held in the Social Hall on Saturday, 23rd August. This year the contest was judged by a Board of Judges—Mrs. A. R. Atkinson, Miss England, and Professor Hunter.

Miss W. Cathie led off with a speech on Queen Victoria. We were unfortunately absent from the hall during the whole of Miss Cath address, and cannot, therefore, comment upon it. We are indebted to the judges for the information that Miss Cathie depended to too great an extent upon notes.

Miss Neumann obviously found a congenial subject in the life of Florence Nightingale; but she plunged too abruptly into what was simply a lengthy catalogue of the deceased lady's virtues. Miss Neumann's tone of serene disinterestedness did not convince. She nevertheless painted an appealing picture of the miseries of the Crimean War; and she was the only speaker, apart from the winner, who, in the remotest degree, conveyed to the anxious listener any impression of the significance and greatness of her heroine. It is difficult to understand why Miss Neumann failed to be placed among the first three speakers.

Miss Hueston stated her case for Mary Godwin in a most aggrieved tone. We instinctively felt that Dorothy was vicariously suffering again for the wrongs of Mary. The determined touches of humour throughout this speech considerably lightened the gloom cast by the earlier speakers. Miss Hueston thoroughly deserved the place the judges allotted her.

Miss Kershaw spoke on Elizabeth Fry somewhat spasmodically. Her voice is not under control, and she invariably ends her sentences on a top note. We got the impression that Miss Kershaw's speech was hastily prepared and unrevised.

Miss Houghton spoke on Charlotte Bronte, not to the audience, however, but to the fire-escape on the southern side of the Social Hall. The fire-escape had a very good time of it, but the audience was left somewhat out in the cold. The defect in Miss Houghton's speech lay in the fact that she never attempted to grip the audience. She merely dictated to it in a you-disagree-with-me-if-you-dare tone, the facts of Charlotte Bronte's life. Her speech was enlivened, however, with some touches of humour.

Miss Pemberton told an interesting story of the life of Pandita Lamabai. She unhappily had the fault that every page 48 speaker, but the winner, had she crammed her canvas with such a wealth of meticulous detail that one could get no clear out-line of the subject. That Mr. James Jones was soundly spanked, when a small boy, is a fact not uninteresting in itself; but in an oratorical contest, strictly limited by time, we wish to hear not so much of the spanking and the other interesting details of Mr. Jones's life, as of his significance for his age. For the rest Miss Pemberton evinced no particularly emotional feeling, and she does not understand the capacities of her own voice.

Miss Pumphrey in her speech on Margaret McDonald showed herself to be in a class quite distinct from that of the other competitors. Her greatest asset is that rarest of feminine possessions, a sense of humour. She was the one and only speaker who was in any sense an orator. She brought home to us in a refreshing and charming way a realization of the personality of Margaret McDonald. Most remarkable of all, Miss Pumphrey was the only speaker who dispensed with notes.

The Judges placed the speakers in the following order:— 1st, Miss Pumphrey, 2nd, Misses Houghton and Pemberton, equal; 3rd, Miss Hueston.

Miss Pumphrey has since stated her determination to resign the prize offered by the Society. It will therefore be divided between Miss Houghton and Miss Pemberton.