Dr. James Weir Jr. was a naturalist and evolutionary scientist in the 19th century who followed the work of Charles Darwin. After studying animals and the origins of the human race, Dr. Weir quickly applied his evolutionary theories to modern society. According to Weir, civilized culture was de-evolving, breaking down and regressing ever closer to savagery and barbarism. To support his theory, he used as evidence the many workers strikes that were occurring around the turn of the century, which was common during the industrial revolution. According to his beliefs, such strikes were an example of the downfall of civilization because those of the lower class, who he considered less evolved and less intelligent, where seeking to overthrow the upper classes, those he considered more evolved and more intelligent.
Expounding further in his theories, Dr. Weir also cited the Women’s Suffrage (right to vote) movement as another example of humanity’s de-evolution. According to Weir in an essay penned in 1894, Women who were strong, independent, and self sufficient were a class of mentally disturbed and physically deformed women called “viragints”. Unlike “normal” women who knew their place in society, were subordinate to men, and lived a humble feminine lifestyle, viragints were a class of women who had de-evolved and regressed to a savage state. According to Weir, granting women the right to vote would only encourage more empowerment for women, thus regressing them further “ backward toward the state of her barbarian ancestors.”
Dr. Weir went even further writing that women’s rights, and most especially the right to vote would create whole generations of viragints, which would eventually lead to the collapse of civilization. Despite Dr. Weirs warnings, the 19th Amendment was passed in 1920, making it illegal to deny the right to vote based on gender.