The Influence of Neurology and Neurologists in the Women’s Suffrage Movement

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Objective: The purpose of this work is to examine the role that neurology and neurologists played in the women’s suffrage movement in the United States. Background: Lydia Taft was a wealthy widow who was allowed to vote in Massachusetts in 1756. The New Jersey constitution in 1776 initially allowed women to vote. There are other municipalities where women were granted the right to vote. Despite these examples, women in the United States did not acquire the right to vote nationally until August 18, 1920, with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. The opinions of neurologists were championed by both the pro- and anti-suffrage movements. Design/Methods: A literature review was conducted primarily through PubMed as well as by searches on Google and Google Books. Results: The debate as to whether women should have the right to vote was quite heated in the 1800s as well as the beginning of the 20th century. Accounts of these debates as well as meetings of suffrage groups—both campaigning for and against—are well documented in newspapers, journals, and books of the day. One of the common discussion points was whether women were “cognitively capable” to have the vote. As such there are often opinions delivered by neurologists justifying why women should or should not be able to vote. Conclusions: During the suffrage movement it would appear that most neurologists supported the right of women to vote. This support was not universal. A review of the contemporary literature provides a remarkable overview of the thoughts of neurologists during a pivotal moment in American history.


Neuroscience and Neurobiology | Women's Studies



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