Saturday, August 13, 2005

Nineteenth-Century Teachers with Disabilities

Two examples: one from a biography of Letitia Landon, born August 14, 1802:
"Miss Landon received the first rudiments of education from an invalid friend and neighbor, who was wont to throw the letters of the alphabet over the carpet, and on the infant scholar bringing to her the right one, she received some trivial reward, which, on her return home, was displayed in the drawing room, and invariably shared with her brother, who consequently was wont to look very earnestly for the hour of her appearance."
(Creative!)

And another, Isaac Copper, described in Frederick Douglass's autobiography:
"...he was called Doctor Copper. He was both our Doctor of Medicine and our Doctor of Divinity. Where he took his degree I am unable to say, but he was too well established in his profession to permit question as to his native skill, or attainments. One qualification he certainly had. He was a confirmed cripple, wholly unable to work, and was worth nothing for sale in the market. Though lame, he was no sluggard. He made his crutches do him good service, and was always on the alert looking up the sick, and such as were supposed to need his aid and counsel....I was early sent to Doctor Isaac Copper, with twenty or thirty other children, to learn the Lord's prayer. The old man was seated on a huge three-legged oaken stool, armed with several large hickory switches, and from the point where he sat, lame as he was, he could reach every boy in the room."
Douglass goes on to explain that "Everybody in the South seemed to want the privilege of whipping somebody else. Uncle Isaac, though a good old man, shared the common passion of his time and country."

These examples floating across my screen brought to mind the book The Teacher's Body: Embodiment, Authority, and Identity in the Academy, eds. Diane P Freedman, Martha Stoddard Holmes, Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, and Madeleine R. Grumet (SUNY Press 2003). (But that's mainly about the present-day, higher ed context.)

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