File - bradley james montrose

Brad Montrose
Ron Christiansen
English 1010
28 February 2015
The Clan of One-Breasted Women
Terry Tempest Williams is an author who shows us how environmental issues are social
issues that ultimately become matters of justice. The Clan of One-Breasted Women was
published in 1992 in “Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place.” She is a well-known
activist who speaks out on behalf of an ethical stance toward life and calls for action from other
activists in her writing. In The Clan of One-Breasted Women there were and still are nuclear
testing going on in Nevada in such towns as Mercury. In her own life, there is family history of
cancer, she wonders the effect of nuclear testing in women who develop breast cancer.
The Clan of One-Breasted Women effectively questions the causes of cancer, either
natural or unnatural, by telling personal stories of death and fear however, she struggles to show
scientific evidence of the effects of nuclear radiation in pregnant women and children so uses the
appeal of pathos to justify her point.
Williams talks about how her family comes from a Mormon culture that has a good diet
of foods which can be linked to breast cancer establishing a good family history of only one case
of cancer prior to 1960. She recalls a memory of a mushroom cloud to her father over lunch one
day and Nuclear testing was taking place in Nevada from 1951 to 1962 and the government said
there was nothing to worry about even though there was evidence of burns, blisters, and nausea
on the women. There were a few cases against the government where compensation was sought
in court and after winning and then appealed, the Supreme Court refused to review the appeal
because “the King can do no wrong.” She goes on telling us that in Mormon culture we are to
keep our mouth shut and don’t speak out against authority no matter what. She admits she
cannot prove she or others developed cancer from nuclear testing but she can’t prove they didn’t
The dream toward the end of the passage suggests that her and her relatives or “clan”
can’t bear the testing any longer and that “the time of protest had come that to deny one’s
genealogy with the Earth was to commit treason against one’s soul.” Upon being questioned by
authority they responded with “We are mothers and we have come to reclaim the desert for our
children.” The author was one of these women and this act was a gesture on behalf of the Clan
of One-Breasted Women.
The title jumped out at me and made me think, “what does that mean exactly.” This
could talk about women who have breasts different sizes or something else. It actually means
women have had mastectomies because of breast cancer. She sure uses a catchy title to get the
reader interested and start reading. The use of the phrase “The Clan” suggests something strong
and united and in this case is a family of women.
The author uses the appeal of pathos in many parts of this passage such as using the
words death and fear to try to get the audience to have an emotional response to her writing.
“But one by one, I have watched the women in my family die common, heroic deaths.” Why are
these deaths in her family heroic? Is it because they died fighting to the end no matter what?
For example, she watched most of her family die while caring for them and hoping for good but
always receiving the bad.
“The fear and inability to question authority that ultimately killed rural communities in
Utah during atmospheric testing of atomic weapons is the same fear I saw in my mother’s body.”
The fear of what would happen if she spoke up to authority whether it be in faith or in
government. After the National Institute of Health said radiation cancer requires 14 years to
become evident, which is the same time frame of her mother getting cancer, she loses her faith in
being quiet and becoming her own voice. In the dream there were people in Mercury when it is
supposed to be uninhabitable, this is to show the audience that they felt betrayed by the
The appeal of logos is the definition of the terms “uninhabitable” and “home”. What do
these words actually mean. The government claimed the country north of the Nevada Test Site
virtually uninhabitable, the author, her family, and even birds of the Great Salt Lake were some
of the “virtual uninhabitants.” When the officers dropped the women short of town as a joke
they considered themselves to be home. Home is considered a place and not a state of mind in
which these women were since they were united.
Does anyone really know the actual causes of cancer whether it be natural or unnatural.
She has no actual scientific evidence of radiation causing the cancer in her family but is it a
complete coincidence that the cancer showed up 14 years later? She does admit she can’t prove
either theory. What does this do to her credibility? She relies on pathos for the most of this
article since the lack of scientific evidence and the use of all the personal experience.
In conclusion, the author relates a lot of personal stories and experience with appeal to
pathos mostly to make her point. There is no actual evidence except maybe the cases in court
that nuclear testing is a cause for cancer in women. The Clan of One-Breasted Women is an
attempt to call for action in regards to speaking up and trying to make a change or having your
voice heard no matter the situation through the appeal of pathos.