Desiring Suffrage as a Neurological Disorder

“THE ENEMY AT THE GATE” – under this striking title The Outlook for April 6 (1912) published an article by Dr. Max G. Schlapp, the head of the department of neuropathology in the Post-Graduate Medical School and Hospital of New York City and in the Cornell Medical School, sounding a note of warning regarding certain modern tendencies.

Dr. Schlapp’s conclusions are, in substance, that the strain of modern life is having an effect upon men, and especially upon women, that can be traced biologically; that it is such as to impair the vigor and faculties of a great proportion of children that are now being born into the world; that the effect is seen in injury to motherhood, in a reduced birthrate, in an increase in the proportion of the mentally defective, the insane and the delinquent; and that the resultant conditions are such that nothing short of a radical change in present tendencies can save modern civilized peoples from going the way of the Greeks and the Romans.

This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s Women’s Suffrage Collection. We can provide access to fully searchable newspapers by and for women including The Lily (1849-1856), National Citizen and Ballot Box (1878-1881), The Revolution (1868-1872), The New Citizen (1909-1912), The Western Woman Voter (1911-1913), and the antisuffrage newspaper, The Remonstrance (1890-1913).

Among women who do not have to work for a livelihood, the strain of social and public activities works almost as great havoc. The abnormally active woman is filled with an impetuous desire to do things that are beyond her powers. Pleasures cease to give the desired stimulation, and then women advance to dispute the philosophy of the ages, and to contest with men in all pursuits. Dr. Schlapp goes on to say:

Gentle women, naturally retiring and unassertive, become suffragists and suffragettes, and they stand boldly on a soap-box in a public square, before a motley throng, to proclaim their demands. These same women, driven by the exigencies of the hour, approve such conduct on the part of their sisters as that of breaking up meetings, storming and insulting public men in the streets and smashing windows. These conditions are only an evidence of a nervous distress that has become universal. … Latter-day women, driven by the strife of the elements within them to enormous exertions are asking in what way women are inferior to men and are attempting to demonstrate their equal physical endurance. It is not a question of equality at all. It is one of physical difference in the sexes which forbids women from performing either factory labor or disquieting tasks.

One lesson to be learned, if the enemy of which this eminent nervous expert writes is to be driven from our gates, is the duty of resisting all excessive and unnecessary demands upon the energies of women.

First of these is the demand that the ballot be imposed upon women, with all its responsibilities. This is something that society does not need, and that women do not need. No conceivable good can come to either from it. But it would greatly add to the burdens and anxieties of women, and would accelerate those destructive forces whose mischievous workings Dr. Schlapp points out.

Source: The Remonstrance, July 1912

About The Remonstrance

The Remonstrance was the official publication of the Massachusetts Association Opposed to the Further Extension of Suffrage to Women. First published annually and later quarterly in Boston from February, 1890 until April 1919, it provided a forum for women who opposed the expansion of voting rights to women.

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