Outcasts from the Vote: Women Suffrage and Disability over the Long 19th Century

Rabia Belt, Stanford Law School

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


Please join us for a LAPA Seminar with Rabia Belt, Assistant Professor of Law at Stanford University.

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 a legal historian whose scholarship focuses on broad and diverse issues including 19th and 20th century U.S. History, Disability History, Legal History, Law of Democracy, History of Suffrage, African American History, American Indian History, and Gender History. A legal history scholar, her work has garnered praise. In 2015 the American Society of Legal History named her a Kathryn T. Preyer Scholar for her paper  “Ballots for Bullets? The Disenfranchisement of Civil War Veterans.” She joins the Stanford Law Faculty in 2015 first as an academic fellow while finishing her dissertation, currently titled “Disabling Democracy in America: Disability, Citizenship, Suffrage, and the Law, 1830-1920.” She will take up her position as assistant professor at Stanford Law in the next academic year.

Cornelia H. Dayton
LAPA Fellow; University of Connecticut

Cornelia H. Dayton 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.