Monday, May 30, 2005


I want one of these jackets. Please tell me someone acquired one for a disability history archive somewhere.

Edited to add: Looking into the story, I ran across this recent story also about Deaf culture in India. The movie it mentions, Black, is (believe it or not) a Bollywood treatment of... the Helen Keller/Annie Sullivan story, as explained here. Except it's set in the present. And the deaf-blind character is a gorgeous twentysomething (Rani Mukherjee). And her teacher is a sixty-something leading man (Amitabh Bachchan). And it's a musical (of course).

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Cruel Shoes

Latest goodie from a long term project of mine, culling through the 1870s run of the Woodhull & Claflin Weekly, a newspaper published in New York by Victoria Woodhull and her sister, Tennessee Claflin:
'Dr. Pancoast, of Philadelphia, remarked the other day, after performing a painful operation on an interesting little girl, whose feet had been ruined by wearing wrongly constructed shoes, “This is the beginning of a large harvest of such cases.” And what else can be expected? Mothers walk the streets with heels on their boots from two and a half to three and a half inches high, and not more than an inch in diameter, and their daughters follow the same bad practice. In many cases severe sprains of the ankles are suffered. But these are not the worst fruits of the high-heeled torture. The toes are forced against the fore part of the boot, and some begun to assume unnatural positions. In many cases they are actually dislocated. In others the great toe passes under the feet, the tendons harden in that position, and lameness is contracted, for which there is no cure but the knife. When the injury does not take this form, it assumes other aspects almost as distressing and horrible. There are thousands of young girls, tiptoeing it along our streets today, who, in a few years, will be cripple [sic] if their parents do not interfere and remove the cause.'
From: Unsigned, "Women Items," Woodhull and Claflin Weekly 7(3)(1 July 1871): 14.

Later in the same list of miscellaneous items is a story about women teachers' jobs being so stressful and undercompensated that they're dying of consumption at alarming rates. These nuggets are worth the eyestrain of reading tiny newsprint on rickety microfilm machines.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005



Bowery Poetry Club Hosts
We Still Stand, Just a Little Bending

May 28, 2005
Saturdays at 2 p.m.
Bowery Poetry Club
308 Bowery, New York, NY 10012
212-614-0505 (end of Bleecker street)

Contributors to Breath & Shadow
A Journal of Disability Literature and Culture
Natalia Zaretsky (host)
Elizabeth Marchitti
Abigail Astor
Diana Lee
(open mike follows)
(One drink obligatory or $5)

Contact: Sharon Wachsler, Editor, Breath & Shadow /


NATALIA ZARETSKY (host) has two collections poetry: Autumn Solstice and
Memories Below the Bridge. Among other poetry prizes, Natalia received the
Outstanding Achievement in Poetry Award in 2003 and the President's Award
for Literary Excellence in 2004. Nataliaís poetry credits include Poetry
Magazine, The Louisville Review ,, California Quarterly, Moment.

ABIGAIL ASTOR, despite bouts of serious illness, graduated from Queens
College magna cum laude in 2001. An up-and-coming poetry power,
Abigailís work reflects her personal experiences with bipolar disorder and
post-traumatic stress disorder; most of her poetry was written during stays in
psychiatric hospitals.

DIANA LEE'S, native New Yorker, work has appeared in Sapphic Ink, Dykeís
World, She Magazine, and Zaftig: Well Rounded Erotica. Her most recent
novels, A Taste For Blood and Blood Price, are published or forthcoming from
Haworth Press. Diana can be seen zipping around the city in Zephyrus, her
purple power chair.

ELIZABETH MARCHITTI's poems have appeared in The Journal of New
Jersey Poets, Lips, The Paterson Literary Review, Passager, and Without
Halos. She has published two chapbooks: Off-Season and Let Winter Come.
For the safety of those with allergies and chemical sensitivities, please do not
wear perfume, aftershave, or other scented products. Thank you!
Wheelchair accessible

Editor, Breath & Shadow

Thursday, May 19, 2005

"Art Beyond Sight"

This is a bit ahead of the game, but it sounds worth planning for: There will be a conference jointly organized by Art Education for the Blind, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum Access Consortium, called "Art Beyond Sight: Multi-Modal Approaches to Learning," that sounds more interesting than the jargon in the second half of the title. It's scheduled for Friday October 14 and Saturday October 15; the Friday events happen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and feature among the presenters Rebecca McGinnis and Deborah Jaffe (the Metropolitan Museum of Art), Hannah Goodwin (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), Georgina Kleege (University of California at Berkeley and author of Sight Unseen), Dr. Alvaro Pascuale-Leone (Harvard Medical Center), and David Rose (Harvard Medical School of Education and CAST). The Saturday morning events take place at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), and feature two panel discussions chaired by Paula Terry (Director, Office of AccessAbility, National Endowment for the Arts), and Francesca Rosenberg (Museum of Modern Art). Saturday afternoon events will be more panel discussions, held at the American Folk Art Museum. There will also be dinner and breakfast gatherings for discussion. If you email these folks (try ) with "October conference" in the subject line, they'll send you registration information and other details.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Charter schools and kids with disabilities

As a public school parent (and former public school student and teacher) I remain extremely dubious about the net overall benefit of the charter school movement, especially for kids with disabilities; but it's only fair to note the exceptions where they exist. The CHIME Charter Elementary school in Woodland Hills CA, which is dedicated to inclusion of kids with various disabilities along with typical peers, won statewide "Charter School of the Year" honors earlier this year. An entry at pointed me in the direction of charter schools that serve deaf and h-o-h students; there are quite a number of these, it turns out. Metro Deaf School in Minnesota has been operating since 1993, a long history for any charter school. There are others. I should learn more about them, I guess. Still not convinced on the large-scale, but smaller-scale successes are still successes, worthy of note.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

May 5: Happy Birthday, Elizabeth Cochrane!

Another disability history birthday for today. Elizabeth Cochrane, better known by the name she used in her bylines, "Nellie Bly," was born on this date in 1864, in western Pennsylvania. She was a journalist with a knack for publicity and a strong interest in reform. In one of her undercover investigations, she posed as a madwoman to gain entrance to Blackwell Island, New York City's lunatic asylum, to report on conditions there. The full text of the resulting book, Ten Days in a Mad-House, is available online here; her stories about inmate treatment at Blackwell prompted a state investigation of the facility, and ultimately reforms to its practices.

May 5: Happy Birthday, William McTell

Just in case your tastes don't run to Dutch recorder music, there's another festive music opportunity with a disability history tie-in on the weekend of May 20-21: The 12th Annual Blind Willie McTell Blues Festival, in Thomson, Georgia, named in honor of blues guitarist William Samuel "Blind Willie" McTell, born 5 May 1901 (or maybe 1898?), in Thomson. Read more about the musician (who also recorded as "Blind Sammie") here, and here. (Or maybe just listen to the lyrics to Bob Dylan's song, "Blind Willie McTell.") There's a brand-new box-set of his recordings coming out too.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Jacob van Eyck works to be performed

According to the Times Leader of northeastern Pennsylvania, the Fine Arts Fiesta in Wilkes-Barre will feature a performance of Jacob van Eyck's music by the Baltimore Consort, at the Luzerne County Courthouse on Saturday, May 21. Jacob van Eyck (c.1590-1657) was a Dutch carillonneur and composer for recorder, who was blind from birth. Learn more about van Eyck here (an extensive site that includes maps, images, midi files of his compositions, another sound file teaching us the correct pronunciation of his name, and several years of English-language essays by Thiemo Wind, titled the Jacob van Eyck Quarterly).