Friday, February 05, 2016

For Stacey

Stacey asked me to keep a lookout for historical people who had muscular dystrophy--and I said "sure!" because that's right up my alley.  So I started poking around on Wikipedia, of course. Some stories that caught my attention this morning are below, in chronological order by date of birth. As usual, it isn't the most diverse list; there's definitely room for a wider array of stories on Wikipedia. Suggested additions are most welcome! (I'm only counting deceased people as "historical"--just to have some kind of cutoff.)


Richard Lindsay Batten (1920-1974) was a British orthopaedic surgeon who established the first blood bank in Nigeria, and advocated effectively for motorcycle helmets in the UK. He had myotonic dystrophy, a progressive form of muscular dystrophy that affected him more in his later life.

Mel Powell (1923-1998) was an American jazz pianist and composer who worked with Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, and Django Reinhardt, among other greats. He began using a wheelchair (sometimes a cane) in his twenties, and focused on composition when he needed to stop touring. He was the founding dean of the school of music at California Institute of the Arts.  He won the Pulitzer Prize in Composition in 1990. (You've probably heard music by Mel Powell if you've watched enough old Tom and Jerry cartoons--he composed for those, in addition to his more serious work.)

Quentin Crewe (1926-1998) was an English travel writer and restaurant critic whose New York Times obituary carried the remarkable headline "Quentin Crewe, 72, Bon Vivant Who Was Unfazed by Disability", with the further explanation that he had "not so much suffered from, as gloried in" his muscular dystrophy. He traveled in his customized wheelchair -- including two years crossing the Sahara, and two years living in Kyoto -- and wrote his books by typing one-handed. He wrote a gossipy memoir, Well, I Forget the Rest: The Autobiography of an Optimist (1991), of his adventures.

Alfredino Ferrari
Alfredo "Dino" Ferrari (1932-1956), yes, from that Ferrari family.  Alfredo was the son of company founder Enzo Ferrari, and an automotive engineer too, before he died at 24, from complications of his Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The "Dino" car series was named in his honor. There's also a Formula One racing venue named for him and for his father.

Sister Mary Louise St. John (1943-2003) was an American Catholic gay rights activist and a Benedictine nun who used a wheelchair from her youth. She studied world literature and psychology at Skidmore College before entering her religious order. At a conference in 1989, she declared, 'To alienate my lesbian identity from the identity of the Godness within me would be to dismember myself.'' At the same event, she spoke about the challenge of claiming her sexuality as a wheelchair user. She was cofounder of the Womynspace coffeehouse in Erie, and spoke at that city's first gay rights rally in 1998. Sister Mary Louise served as a business manager, tutor, and retreat guide at her motherhouse. She was also on the board of the local Community Resources for Independence.  Here's her obituary in the Erie Gay News, with a small blurry photo of her using a power wheelchair.


Saturday, January 23, 2016

CFP: Voices of Madness, Voices of Mental Ill-Health (15-16 September 2016)

from Steven Taylor:

Voices of Madness, Voices of Mental ill-health
Centre for Health Histories, University of Huddersfield
15th- 16th Sept 2016

In the thirty years since Roy Porter called on historians to lower their gaze so that they might better understand patient-doctor roles in the past, historians have sought to place the voices of previously, silent, marginalised and disenfranchised individuals at the heart of their analyses.

Contemporaneously, the development of service user groups and patient consultations have become an important feature of the debates and planning related to current approaches to prevention, care and treatment. The aim of this conference is to further explore and reveal how the voices of those living with and treating mental illness have been recorded and expressed.  We hope to consider recent developments in these areas with a view to facilitating an interdisciplinary discourse around historical perspectives of mental health and illness.

The organisers invite proposals for 20 minutes on the themes of voices of madness and mental ill health under headings including but not limited to:

Oral history and testimony

Mental ill-health and community care

Mental ill-health and institutional histories

The role of informal carers

The growth of the mental health professions

Mental ill health and the voice(s) of adolescentsand children

Museums and the ‘heritage’ of mental ill health

The literature (fiction and non-fiction) of mental ill health

Language of madness (if not covered by ‘heritage’)

Dissenting voices

Appropriation of voices

Absent voices

Voices and art

Voices and stigma

The voices of mental ill-health on TV and radio

Individual, activist and social media

For more information contact Dr Rob Ellis (r.ellis@hud.ac.uk), Dr Sarah Kendal (s.kendal@hud.ac.uk) or Dr Steven Taylor (s.taylor@hud.ac.uk). To submit a paper proposal (250 words maximum) or express an interest, please contact Steve Taylor by 14 March 2015.

We hope to offer some bursaries for postgraduate and early career researchers.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

CFP: Disability and Deafness in Literature for Young People (Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies special issue)

CFP: Disability and Deafness in Literature for Young People (Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies special issue)

Guest editors: Chloƫ Hughes and Elizabeth A. Wheeler

This special issue of the JLCDS aims to bring together an international and  multidisciplinary base of readers and writers who explore disability in  literature published for young people.

While disability and deafness have often featured in literature for young people, their most usual role has been as a “narrative prosthesis” supporting the storyline. Disability and Deaf literature for young readers has boomed in the twenty-first century, including bestsellers like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The Fault in Our Stars, Wonder, Wonderstruck, Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, and Out of My Mind, as well as a growing collection of texts written in or with Blissymbolics, Braille, Sign Language, or in tactile, textile, interactive, and digital formats. This special issue reconsiders the history and current urgency of disability and deafness in literature for young readers in light of this twenty-first century publishing boom.

Children are often on the front lines of the struggle over the meanings of disability. For young people both with and without disabilities, the works they encounter provide long-lasting frames of reference for understanding bodymind diversity. It is especially important that scholars well versed in disability and Deaf justice, theory, and lived experience critique this canon.

We seek articles on a wide variety of genres, including fantasy, dystopias, science fiction, graphic memoirs and novels, biography, digital forms like blogs and vlogs, “misfit romance,” “sick lit,” and superhero stories. Disabilities that only exist in fictional worlds are fair game. The guest editors are interested in submissions that cross-examine race, class, gender, and sexuality as well as disability and deafness and represent a wide cross-section of international literatures and ethnic groups. We welcome proposals from disability and Deaf studies scholars (especially those who may not have previously written about literature for young people), but also encourage submissions from scholars of other disciplines who might lend their perspectives on using literature for young people with representations of disability to explore bodymind diversity with children and adolescents. We are also interested in intergenerational dialogues, interviews with authors and illustrators who have included protagonists with disabilities or published books for young people in accessible formats, as well as reviews of recently published young adult literature that features protagonists with disabilities. We particularly encourage submissions from scholars with the same disability as the protagonist.

Examples of content foci for this special issue of the JLCDS include, but are not limited to:
• Disabled and Deaf characters challenging normalcy
• Fantastic Freaks and Critical Crips in countercultural texts for young people
• Aesthetic/artistic representations of disability in picturebooks
• Literature for young people by Disabled or Deaf authors and illustrators
• Beyond “narrative prosthesis”
• Children’s and Young Adult Literature in accessible formats
• The role /aesthetics of disability accommodations in texts for young people
• Visibility or invisibility of Disability Rights in literature for young people
• Intersectionality: race, gender, class, sexual orientation, gender identity
• Representations of chronic illness and mental health
• Biographical writing for young people—what is / is not included?
• Critiques of didactic texts for young people on disability
• Interviews of authors/ illustrators
• Reviews of recently published children’s and young adult literature with representations of disability

Timetable:
April 15, 2016: submission of a 500 word proposal for articles or 150 word proposal for reviews and a one-page curriculum vitae to guest editors at hughesc@mail.wou.edu and ewheeler@uoregon.edu.
May 15, 2016: prospective authors notified of proposal status.
November 1, 2016: final versions of selected papers due to editors.
February 1, 2017: finalists selected. Decisions and revisions on submissions sent to authors.
May 1, 2017: final, revised papers due from finalists.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

DHA Outstanding Book Award

From the DHA:

The Disability History Association promotes the relevance of disability to
broader historical enquiry and facilitates research, conference travel, and
publication for scholars engaged in any field of disability history.

The Disability History Association is excited to announce its 5th Annual
Outstanding Publication Award
. The award alternates between books and
peer-reviewed articles or book chapters.

In 2016 the award committee will accept book submissions. Submissions are
welcome from scholars in all fields who engage in work relating to the
history of disability. Book submissions may have one or multiple authors
and may be a single monograph, or an edited collection, provided the latter
contains new and original scholarship.

Although the award is open to all authors covering all geographic areas and
time periods, the publication must be in English, and must have a
publication date within the two years preceding the submission date (i.e.
1/1/2014 – 5/1/2016). If your book was published in 2014 or 2015, or it
will be published in the first four months of 2016, your book is eligible
for the prize.

The amount of the award is $600.

All submissions should be sent to the award committee care of Michael
Rembis no later than May 1, 2016.

Authors should arrange for five (5) copies of the book to be sent directly
to the award committee at: Michael Rembis, Department of History,
University at Buffalo, 552 Park Hall, Buffalo, NY 14260-4130. Submissions
should also be sent in a format compatible with screen reading software,
such as a .doc file or a text-based .pdf to marembis@buffalo.edu.

In the interest of modeling best practices in the field of disability
studies, we require that the publisher/author provide an electronic copy in
text-based .pdf or .doc file format for the review committee. We understand
that copyright rules apply, and we will only use the electronic copy for
the purposes of the DHA Outstanding Publication Award.  Manuscripts not
provided in accessible electronic formats for screen reading software in a
timely manner will not be considered for the prize.

The Disability History Association board will announce the recipient of the
DHA Outstanding Publication Award in September 2016.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Wheelchair Costumes in the Cardboard Art Show

Over the past few years, I've made my son some cardboard costumes for his Quickie2 wheelchair.  There are some advantages to using old boxes for this purpose--lightweight, cheap, easy to find, and easy to cut and spraypaint and puncture and duct-tape. They're pretty much flat, so he doesn't feel enclosed, and they can fit in the back of our minivan.  If he bends or tears any parts, it's not a big deal, we just add more duct-tape or cardboard. They've been fun, he's won some costume contests with them, and they make people smile.

What I wasn't expecting was that they'd find a place as art. The "Steampunk Submarine" costume was in the Opulent Mobility show at Northridge in September, curated by A. Laura Brody, Zeina Baltagi, and Anthony Tusler; we attended the opening reception to show it in action. And now the submarine and the "Rocketship to Jupiter" are in the Cardboard Art Show at Artist & Craftsman Supply in downtown Los Angeles, curated by Madison Girifalco, opening tomorrow:
Photo by Madison Girifalco; faux brick wall next to staircase, with words "The Cardboard Art Show" and several large pieces of cardboard art mounted upon it, including a rocketship and a submarine.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Christine la Barraque (c1878-1961), and more new disability content on Wikipedia

Hey! A new post at DSTU. 

As I've mentioned, in recent years I've been putting some energy into Wikipedia. I like writing new entries there, because it feels like that's going to reach a much bigger audience than a journal article or a paywalled reference. And, as part of WikiProject Disability, some of my entries are about disability topics (of course). Since last BADD in May, I've started new entries for baseball coach Mary Dobkin, businessman Dwight D. Guilfoil Jr., South African activist Maria Rantho, wheelchair manufacturers Everest & Jennings, blind biochemist Dilworth Wayne Woolley, playground builders Shane's Inspiration, and blind singer/lawyer Christine la Barraque. I also built out an existing stub entry on educator Elizabeth E. Farrell, during the "Justin Dart Jr. Virtual Edit-a-thon 2015" in August.


None of these are exhaustive entries; they're a good solid start, I think, but if anyone reading this blogpost has more to add, with reliable sources to back up any new information, please jump in! Christine la Barraque has me especially curious right now (because I just wrote about her on Friday). She seems, pretty definitely, to have been the first blind woman to pass the bar in California; but was she the first in any state (as some sources suggest)? Was she the first blind woman to graduate from the University of California, in 1896 (when she was about 18 years old, by the way)? Anytime "the first" is on the table, there are questions and complications: who counts as blind? or graduating? or a woman? La Barraque was said to have been born in France, but exactly where is sketchy and mentions contradict each other. If she was, her parents came to America with a blind child, through immigration screens intended to prevent that scenario. So I would love to know more about them, too. (I think they lived in Tres Pinos or Paicines, California--when she was living in Boston at the time of the San Francisco earthquake, she sent a telegram to the governor of California asking after "my people in Tres Pinos.")

La Barraque wasn't an obscure singer or advocate; she performed for Helen Keller and Mark Twain, she was a founder and president of the San Francisco Workers for the Blind, she testified before the Massachusetts Legislature, she toured blind schools in Italy, she performed all over the US and apparently also in Canada. I've seen mentions of her working with disabled veterans after both World Wars, but not enough to include in the entry (yet). 

Friday, May 01, 2015

BADD 2015: Wikipedia Against Disablism, Part 2

Ahem.  Hello? Hello?

Okay, I'm here for BADD 2015, because how could I break our ten-year streak of participation? I couldn't.  I'm not so much of a blogger these days, but I'm willing to add my bit to the big event.  For our past nine appearances in the series:

2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006. (For the record, the 2007 and 2008 entries are two of my favorite blog posts I've ever written, on any blog, or any topic.  BADD has been good for me.)

Last year I wrote about why Wikipedia needs more and better content on disability topics, and how anyone can help; and how that fights disablism, by shifting language, removing cliches, decreasing melodrama, respecting personhood, perhaps in small ways, but for a big diverse audience that will never see your blog or your journal article.  I'm still pretty involved there, and in the past year I've found more ways to discover stories to improve Wikipedia's disability content; so I'm still preaching that same sermon today.

But first:
Headline from a 1910 Aberdeen Herald newspaper, from Aberdeen, Washington, reads "Ableism the Issue; All Others Sunk into Insignificance in this County; All kinds of Diversions are Attempted by the Abel Press, but are not Successful. What is Abel Spending So Much Money For?" From Newspapers.com

Young African-American woman in historical portrait
Eliza Suggs (1876-1908), temperance activist
That headline didn't actually have anything to do with disability or discrimination, but I was still startled to see the word "Ableism" appear in a newspaper from over a century ago!  I found this because I acquired a Newspapers.com subscription through The Wikipedia Library, a project that matches experienced Wikipedia editors with scholarly resources that aren't always available for off-campus folks.  So far it's been extremely useful, and hardly a day passes without finding something fascinating.  Like the tidbit above. 

One of the ways I'm using searchable old newspapers like this is to find the disability stories that are hiding, that are lost, that we forgot, that we need to remember.  Not all of them made the big national papers, but they survive in local dailies, and sometimes there's plenty to meet Wikipedia's criteria for notability and reliable sources, and start a new entry. Maybe everyone knows about Helen Keller, or thinks they do, enough to put her on US currency (again). But there are so many others worth learning about!  Some American biographical examples, from recent wanderings on Wikipedia or in old US newspapers:

1. Eliza Suggs (1876-1908):  "Carried in arms or wheeled about in a carriage, her frail hands and well developed head have accomplished wonders, obtaining a fair education, which makes her a valuable assistant, sometimes as secretary of religious organizations and work. In former years she assisted her father, more or less, in evangelistic work, and she has presided in public meetings with marked dignity and ability." Suggs was born in Illinois, to parents who met while they were enslaved on a Mississippi plantation; she had osteogenesis imperfecta (OI), and was a temperance activist alongside her preacher father, and later on her own.  I didn't write this entry but I'm glad somebody did.  Here's her memoir online, along with a photo of Miss Suggs (above, right).

2. Anita Lee Blair (1916-2010) was the first blind woman to serve in any US state legislature.  I wrote about her on DSTU a few years ago, and finally got her Wikipedia entry started earlier this year.  I found a campaign ad of hers from 1952 in a Texas newspaper recently, too, featuring her guide dog Fawn, and text proclaiming her achievements and her independence.
"Fear" (1981) by Elizabeth Layton;
a drawing of an older woman peeking
out from a closet with a fearful expression




3. Elizabeth Layton (1909-1993) was an artist based in Kansas who found her art late in life, in a drawing class she took at age 68, hoping it would help with her lifelong struggles with depression, and with more acute grief following the death of her son.  It did help, and it also brought her national acclaim:  in 1992 she was the focus of a show at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American Art.  I started her Wikipedia entry last week.  At left, a 1981 drawing by Elizabeth Layton, titled "Fear."  (Were you expecting sentimental art from an old lady?  Her drawings were edgy, even controversial.)

4. Dwight D. Guilfoil Jr. (1926-1989) was a businessman and a disabled veteran, who advocated for hiring disabled workers, and used his own company to demonstrate the possibilities.  Guilfoil doesn't have a Wikipedia entry yet, but I think he'd be a great candidate for one.  For now, check out an essay he wrote titled "Let's Stop 'Handicapping' Americans," which appeared in syndication, in newspapers across the US, in 1960.

UPDATE (February 2016): Dwight D. Guilfoil Jr. has a wikipedia entry now.

5. Mary Dobkin (1902-1987) was a immigrant child in Baltimore when she lost both feet to frostbite as a little girl. This early experience, and a lifelong love of baseball, made her a tireless advocate for poor kids in her adopted city; she coached kids' teams, integrated during the Jim Crow era, and took particular interest in providing sports opportunities for disabled kids.  There was a television movie made about her in 1979, but until today, no Wikipedia entry.  So I'll get right on that.




By the end of today, California time, there will be a new Wikipedia entry on Mary Dobkin, in honor of BADD 2015.  (I'll light up her name as a link when the entry is up.)  Anyone want to join in?  Plenty of other stories to tell, and every well-told story helps.