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Title:Changing bodies and minds: “Crippled children” and their movement in the United States, 1890-1960
Author(s):Duncan, Leanna Darlene
Director of Research:Reagan, Leslie J
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Reagan, Leslie J
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Hoganson, Kristin; Chaplin, Tamara; Hogarth, Rana; Oberdeck, Kathryn J
Department / Program:History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
United States
Abstract:“Changing Bodies and Minds: ‘Crippled Children’ and Their Movement in the United States, 1890-1960” traces disabled activism within the “crippled children’s movement,” an early twentieth-century effort to promote the care, education, and support of children with orthopedic disabilities headquartered in the Great Lakes region of the US. Such work is often credited to non-disabled male philanthropists or Progressive reformers. Through examining this movement, I argue that the limited influence of disabled people in organizations supposedly designed to support them is a far more recent development than is commonly believed—that is, that the rallying slogan “nothing about us without us” used by the disability rights movement was a response to conditions created in the mid-twentieth century. Disabled men and women, particularly former “crippled children” such as polio survivor Blanche Van Leuven Browne, played essential roles in creating and backing this movement. They claimed authority and promoted movement policies based on their own experiences of “crippled childhood.” In looking at these claims to authority based on experience, I offer a new periodization for histories of disability and disability activism. Claims from experience underlay the origins of the movement, rooted in Browne’s Detroit hospital-school, and appeared throughout the rise of its central organization, the International Society for Crippled Children, in the pages of movement periodicals and institutional publications. Even as philanthropists, doctors, and social workers increased their control over the movement in the 1930s, the experience of “crippled childhood” continued to exercise power through disabled activists’ and childrens’ writing. Ultimately, however, these voices lost influence to medical and philanthropic alliances for polio prevention by midcentury. To put it quite simply, this dissertation explores a brief moment when disabled people proclaimed themselves experts in their own lives and gained access to platforms through which they could voice this expertise, and argues that these efforts are obscure, not due to their lack of importance but to a later reinvention of the causes and organizations they created.
Issue Date:2021-04-22
Rights Information:Copyright 2021 Leanna Darlene Duncan
Date Available in IDEALS:2021-09-17
Date Deposited:2021-05

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