Defying the Laws of Nature?: Menstruation and Female Intellect in Historical Perspective
Jenkins, Amanda Lauren
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In 19th and early 20th century America menstruation began to be constructed as a barrier to women wishing to access higher education. Male physicians warned of the supposed dangers studying would impose upon female reproductive systems. A closer look at these perspectives are explored in greater depth through my research question “What discourses has science constructed around the relationship between menstruation and female cognitive ability from the late 1800s to today in America?” This paper explores two key figures in the battle against educating women: Edward H. Clarke (1820-1877) and G. Stanley Hall (1844-1924). Despite substantial support for Clarke and Hall’s arguments, many feminists sought to disprove their theories. Psychologist Leta Hollingworth, and physicians Clelia Mosher and Mary Putnam Jacobi were forerunners in these arguments. A look at how and why menstrual invalidism has persevered from 19th century to today will be explored through Nancy Tuana’s epistemology of ignorance framework.