Gender identifies the social roles deemed appropriate for both sexes. Rhetorical genres are also social constructions, but given prohibitions against women speaking, historically, virtually all rhetorical action was gendered masculine. Accordingly, the earliest women speakers faced a double bind that not only spurred them to heights of inventional creativity but also generated contradictions that limited their ability to produce rhetorical masterpieces. At the same time, their challenges emboldened other women, and their arguments became resources for subsequent women speakers. These claims are developed and illustrated through analysis of texts of two of the earliest known speeches by U.S. women, Priscilla Mason’s 1793 salutatory oration and Deborah Sampson Gannett’s 1802 lecture tour.