Cover image for The new disability history : American perspectives
The new disability history : American perspectives
Longmore, Paul K.
Publication Information:
New York : New York University Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
vi, 416 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm.
Introduction : Disability history : from the margins to the mainstream / Paul K. Longmore and Lauri Umansky -- Disability and the justification of inequality in American history / Douglas C. Baynton -- "Speech has an extraordinary humanizing power" : Horace Mann and the problem of nineteenth-century American deaf education / R.A.R. Edwards -- "This unnatural and fratricidal strife" : a family's negotiation of the Civil War, deafness, and independence / Hannah Joyner -- "Trying to idle" : work and disability in The diary of Alice James / Natalie A. Dykstra -- A pupil and a patient : hospital-schools in progressive America / Brad Byrom -- Cold charity : manhood, brotherhood, and the transformation of disability, 1870-1900 / John Williams-Searle -- The outlook of The problem and the problem with the Outlook : two advocacy journals reinvent blind people in turn-of-the-century America / Catherine J. Kudlick -- Reading between the signs : defending deaf culture in early twentieth-century America / Susan Burch -- Medicine, bureaucracy, and social welfare : the politics of disability compensation for American veterans of World War I / K. Walter Hickel -- Helen Keller and the politics of civic fitness / Kim Nielsen -- Martyred mothers and merciful fathers : exploring disability and motherhood in the lives of Jerome Greenfield and Raymond Repouille / Janice A. Brockley -- Blind and enlightened : the contested origins of the egalitarian politics of the Blinded Veterans Association / David A. Gerber -- Seeing the disabled : visual rhetorics of disability in popular photography / Rosemarie Garland Thomson -- American disability policy in the twentieth century / Richard K. Scotch.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HV1553 .N48 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Disability has always been a preoccupation of American society and culture. From antebellum debates about qualification for citizenship to current controversies over access and reasonable accommodations, disability has been present, in penumbra if not in print, on virtually every page of American history. Yet historians have only recently begun the deep excavation necessary to retrieve lives shrouded in religious, then medical, and always deep-seated cultural, misunderstanding.

This volume opens up disability's hidden history. In these pages, a North Carolina Youth finds his identity as a deaf Southerner challenged in Civil War-era New York. Deaf community leaders ardently defend sign language in early 20th century America. The mythic Helen Keller and the long-forgotten American Blind People's higher Education and General Improvement Association each struggle to shape public and private roles for blind Americans. White and black disabled World War I and II veterans contest public policies and cultural values to claim their citizenship rights. Neurasthenic Alice James and injured turn-of-the-century railroadmen grapple with the interplay of disability and gender. Progressive-era rehabilitationists fashion programs to make crippled children economically productive and socially valid, and two Depression-era fathers murder their sons as public opinion blames the boys' mothers for having cherished the lads' lives. These and many other figures lead readers through hospital-schools, courtrooms, advocacy journals, and beyond to discover disability's past.

Coupling empirical evidence with the interdisciplinary tools and insights of disability studies, the book explores the complex meanings of disability as identity and cultural signifier in American history.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

"Never assume" has become a mantra for historians over the past few decades. U.S. history was largely a tale of white male accomplishments until practitioners of African American history and ethnic-group history and women's history asked new questions and learned different answers. This collection's contributors draw attention (as the editors note) to "the frequency, the virtual commonplaceness, of disability as personal yet also public experience, social problem, and cultural metaphor" in the U.S. The first essay, for example, dissects the uses of "disability" in the struggles of African Americans, women, and immigrants for equality. In each case, the "unequal" group was assigned "disabling" traits thought to make its members unqualified for full citizenship. Each group won broader rights by demonstrating that its members did not in fact suffer from the alleged "disabilities," but no one ever questioned the notion that "disability" itself was a reasonable basis for exclusion or limitation. A fascinating overview that includes studies of sign language, veterans' pensions, Helen Keller, popular photography, and the twentieth-century history of government disability policy. --Mary Carroll

Choice Review

These 14 essays attempt to draw attention to the work of historians studying disabilities in American history, something not done before. Such collections of scholarship succeed or fail largely on the ability of editors to select and guide their contributors so that the finished book is a unified whole and not merely the sum of its parts. Unfortunately, many of the essays here seem merely focused inward on their own topics--e.g., images of disabilities and biographical studies--making it difficult to discern exactly how they contribute to "disability history," something the editors do not successfully define. The more successful selections deal with the public policy implications of disabilities in American history, including implications for medicine and bureaucracy. The book fails to provide an adequate introduction to its subject despite its promise. Academic libraries, especially those with strong collections in social history and social policy, will want this volume of essays as examples of emerging scholarship. But better developed work, perhaps by these very researchers, surely will follow. C. K. Piehl Minnesota State University, Mankato

Table of Contents

Paul K. Longmore and Lauri UmanskyDouglas C. BayntonR. A. R. EdwardsHannah JoynerNatalie A. DykstraBrad ByromJohn Williams-SearleCatherine J. KudlickSusan BurchK. Walter HickelKim NielsenJanice A. BrockleyDavid A. GerberRosemarie Garland ThomsonRichard K. Scotch
Introduction: Disability History: From the Margins to the Mainstreamp. 1
Part I Uses and Contests
1 Disability and the Justification of Inequality in American Historyp. 33
2 "Speech Has an Extraordinary Humanizing Power": Horace Mann and the Problem of Nineteenth-Century American Deaf Educationp. 58
3 "This Unnatural and Fratricidal Strife": A Family's Negotiation of the Civil War, Deafness, and Independencep. 83
4 "Trying to Idle": Work and Disability in The Diary of Alice Jamesp. 107
Part II Redefinitions and Resistance
5 A Pupil and a Patient: Hospital-Schools in Progressive Americap. 133
6 Cold Charity: Manhood, Brotherhood, and the Transformation of Disability, 1870-1900p. 157
7 The Outlook of The Problem and the Problem with the Outlook: Two Advocacy Journals Reinvent Blind People in Turn-of-the-Century Americap. 187
8 Reading between the Signs: Defending Deaf Culture in Early Twentieth-Century Americap. 214
9 Medicine, Bureaucracy, and Social Welfare: The Politics of Disability Compensation for American Veterans of World War Ip. 236
10 Helen Keller and the Politics of Civic Fitnessp. 268
Part III Images and Identities
11 Martyred Mothers and Merciful Fathers: Exploring Disability and Motherhood in the Lives of Jerome Greenfield and Raymond Repouillep. 293
12 Blind and Enlightened: The Contested Origins of the Egalitarian Politics of the Blinded Veterans Associationp. 313
13 Seeing the Disabled: Visual Rhetorics of Disability in Popular Photographyp. 335
14 American Disability Policy in the Twentieth Centuryp. 375
Contributorsp. 393
Indexp. 397