Abstract

In a society where women were denied social and religious equality with men on the basis of their perceived lack of physical, intellectual, and moral ability, early women’s rights activists argued for gender equality by contending that women and men have equal capabilities. Although this argument of equal gender capability became the foundation for the women’s movement, it assumed an ideology of ability present within nineteenth-century health reform movements—an ideology which marginalizes people with disabilities. This article uses intersectional analyses to explore the speeches and images of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Sojourner Truth in order to demonstrate how religious ideologies of ability permeated the women’s movement and were even maintained across race and class divides. Although this analysis reveals the problematic anthropology that grounded the women’s movement, it concludes with a call to develop alternative anthropologies, which sustain the equality of men and women without marginalizing persons with disabilities.

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