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Message from the President

I’m pleased to announce that in May 2007 DHA officially became a nonprofit corporation in the state of California! Click here to read the full text of this article.

In this Issue

This Fall 2007 edition of the newsletter offers a focus on teaching disability history in the US.  Not only do we have a number of syllabi, but the faculty members who have written them offer explanations for their choice of materials and comments about experiences in the classroom.

In addition, we have a section on three recent books that offer new perspectives on disability history.  Susan Burch and Hannah Joyner have just published Unspeakable: the Story of Junius Wilson with University of North Carolina Press.  Meanwhile Carole Poore has a new book, Disability in Twentieth-Century Germany out in the “Corperealities” Series from University of Michigan Press.  Finally, Douglas Baynton offers a meditation on Kenny Fries’s The History of My Shoes, a creative nonfiction work that interweaves personal history with discussions of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

DHA at the AHA in DC

There will be a number of sessions devoted to Disability History at this year’s American Historical Association meeting in Washington, DC. Click here to read the full text of this article.

Meet Wendy Gagen, New DHA Board Member

My work on disability history sprang from an interest in the relationship between gender and corporeality. Click here to read the full text of this article.

News from Beyond North America

United Kingdom

(provided by Julie Anderson, University of Manchester, UK)

Inspired by Anne Borsay, a leading disability scholar in the UK, the Disability History Group (DHG) was formed under the auspices of the Society for the Social History of Medicine. Click here to read the full text of this article.

The German Lands

(provided by Carol Poore, Brown University, USA)

[Editor’s Note: in Spring 2006 Disability Studies Quarterly (DSQ) devoted a special theme issue to Germany and disability that can be found at: ]

There is a huge amount going on now in Germany (and Austria and Switzerland, too) with respect to developing disability studies. Click here to read the full text of this article.

International Standing Conference on the History of Education (ISCHE)

(presented by Cathy Kudlick)

In July 2007 the ISCHE held its annual meeting at the University of Hamburg, Germany, where the theme was “Children at Risk,” and where I presented as a keynote speaker.  Click here to read the full text of this article.

Teaching Disability History in the Contemporary United States

[Editor’s Note: Below several scholars discuss their experiences in teaching a variety of courses that introduce students to disability history.  In the future, I am eager to present courses for other times and places.  The DHA will also be launching a syllabus pool that will contain annotated copies of syllabi as well as any relevant discussions. Please feel free to contribute anything you feel might be useful.]

“U.S. Disability History” (Online Course for Gallaudet University)

Penny Richards, Research Scholar, UCLA

Because I don't spend enough time online already (ha!), I'm teaching a US disability history course, for Gallaudet University this fall.  I'm attaching the schedule of  readings, but what's cool about teaching online—besides the very relaxed dress code, and the fact that I can hold office hours at 5am or midnight, as I please—is  the wealth of online resources so close at hand. Click here to read the full text of this article.

Upper-Division Lecture Course: Disability and Culture in Twentieth-Century America

Catherine Kudlick, Professor of History, University of California, Davis

When I sat down to draw up my first lecture course on disability history, I was struck by how many fewer  “teachable” materials there are for the rest of the world.  This explains why as a Europeanist I ended up designing a course on the  twentieth-century United States. Click here to read the full text of this article.

“A selective historical glimpse at how American society has tried to educate, rehabilitate, or otherwise intervene in the lives of disabled children and adults, and their families, and how some of them have always resisted.”

Phillip Ferguson, Professor, School of Education, Chapman University,

Based as I am in a School of Education, very few of my students think of themselves as historians (an occasional doc student might be the exception). So, when I teach a ‘history of disability’ course, or spend a few classes on historical background within a class on current theory or practice (say in a course on “Family-School Relationships”), it is with students  who, for the most part, believe history to be a supplementary component of their program of course requirements. Click here to read the full text of this article.

“Teachable Moments in Disability History for a Class that Had Nothing to Do with Disability”

Kim Nielsen, University of Wisconsin, Green Bay,

Several weeks ago my semester-long U.S. Women's History class discussed the short stories of Zitkala-Sa. Her collection, American Indian Stories (Bison Books, 2003), chronicles the governmental and religious boarding school experiences of indigenous children. In the past I've used the stories to discuss Indian women's experiences of westward expansion and how the dominant culture used such schools to teach specific gender roles that were often contrary to indigenous cultures. Click here to read the full text of this article.

Recent Books of Interest to Disability Historians

[Editor’s Note: the books profiled below offer but one indication of the diverse topics and approaches to the field of Disability History.  If you would like to review a book or have one profiled in the Newsletter, please contact me at]

A Conversation with Susan Burch and Hannah Joyner, Authors of Unspeakable: The Story of Junius Wilson

Published November 19, 2007 by the University of North Carolina Press
$27.50 hardcover, ISBN 978-0-8078-3155-7

Susan Burch is a DHA Board Member, and has taught history at Gallaudet University; Charles University, Czech Republic; and the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. She is author of Signs of Resistance: American Deaf Cultural History, 1900 to World War II. Hannah Joyner is an independent scholar and author of From Pity to Pride: Growing Up Deaf in the Old South.

Q: Why is the story of Junius Wilson so remarkable? Tell us a little bit about him and his life.
A: Junius Wilson was a deaf African-American born in North Carolina during the early years of the twentieth century. In 1925 he was accused of the attempted rape of a relative, found insane at a lunacy hearing, committed to the criminal ward of the State Hospital for the Colored Insane, and surgically castrated. Click here to read the full text of this article.

Carol Poore’s, Disability in Twentieth-Century German Culture (University of Michigan, 2007)

From the publicity flyer:  Disability in Twentieth-Century German Culture reveals the contradictions of a nation renowned for its social services programs yet notorious for its history of compulsory sterilization and eugenic dogma. Covering the entire scope of Germany's most tragic and tumultuous century, this comprehensive volume reveals how central the notion of disability is to modern German cultural history. Click here to read the full text of this article.

Douglas C. Baynton (Associate Professor of History, University of Iowa) reviews Kenny Fries, The History of My Shoes and the Evolution of Darwin's Theory, New York: Carroll and Graf Publishers, 2007.  (XVII, 206 pages.)  $14.95

 “We anchor in Tagus Cove off Isabela, the Galapagos island where Charles Darwin landed on September 30, 1835,” begins the first chapter of Kenny Fries' latest memoir, an idiosyncratic and fascinating reflection on disability and evolution. Click here to read the full text of this article.

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