Outcasts from the Vote

Woman Suffrage and Mental Disability

Date: 
Mon, 11/07/2016 - 4:30pm
Location: 
301 Marx Hall
Audience: 
Public

Please join us for a LAPA Seminar with Rabia Belt, Assistant Professor of Law at Stanford University.  The commentator is Cornelia DaytonProfessor of History at the University of Connecticut, and 2016-2017 LAPA Fellow.

LAPA’s seminar format assumes that seminar participants have familiarized themselves with the paper in advance. The commentator opens the session by summarizing the main themes in the paper and presenting some topics for discussion. The author then has the right of first response before we open to the floor for questions. The seminar will end with a brief reception, giving everyone a chance to mingle and meet.

Abstract:  Drawing upon a diverse array of sources, from visual media to legislative documents, I excavate a deep involvement with mental disability by suffrage activists for the white woman suffrage movement in the long 19th century United States. This connection begins with the white suffrage movement at Seneca Falls, travels throughout the nineteenth century into the early twentieth century, and stretches across the United States. Elite white woman suffrage activists employed a variety of tactics that utilized tropes about lunatics and idiots in a campaign to shore up their own potential enfranchisability.

Rabia Belt
Stanford Law School

Rabia Belt is an Assistant Professor at Stanford Law School. She has an A.B. in Social Studies from Harvard College, a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School, and a Ph.D. in American Culture from the University of Michigan. . Her work includes advocacy pieces on disability for venues such as Huffington Post, cultural analysis, such as her article on disability in HBO’s The Wire, and historical pieces on voting and disability. She is at work on a book tentatively titled Disabling Democracy in America: Disability, Citizenship, Suffrage and the Law, 1819-1920. She is also an advocate for people with disabilities and is a member of the Board of Directors for the Disability Rights Bar Association.

Cornelia H. Dayton *86
University of Connecticut

Cornelia H. Dayton *86 is Professor of History at the University of Connecticut.  Her most recent book, written with Sharon V. Salinger, Robert Love’s Warnings: Searching for Strangers in Colonial Boston (2014), won the Merle Curti Award for social history (Organization of American Historians) and the Littleton-Griswold Award in law and society (American Historical Society).  She is also the author of Women Before the Bar: Gender, Law, and Society in Connecticut, 1639-1789 (1995).  Much of her research draws on manuscript court records and involves reconstructing litigants’ life histories.  Research and teaching areas include women, gender, and sexuality in the early modern Atlantic; U.S. immigration policy; and 18th-century urban governance and systems of welfare and relief.  She holds an A.B. from Harvard and a Ph.D. for Princeton. At LAPA, her research will focus on legal, social, and cultural responses to mental and cognitive disabilities in New England from 1700 to the founding of the first asylums in the early 1800s, with particular attention to race, gender, and class.