Monday, December 14, 2009

Disability Blog Carnival #61 is up NOW!

logo[image description: Disability Blog Carnival logo featuring a patent drawing of a torso-bracing device, with "The Disability Blog Carnival/a bracing event" superimposed in blue lettering]

Go check it out at Alison Bergblom Johnson's blog Writing Mental Illness--the theme is "Telling About Disability." Alison has links about the ugly stuff and the great stuff, about what's past and what's present, about what's frustrating and what's exciting (and some things are both, of course).

Hey, do you want to host a month in 2010? Twelve months, twelve opportunities--let me know and we'll try to set up a schedule. It can be time-consuming, but it can also be rewarding and even fun. Look through the last 61 editions for ideas about what a host can do with an edition.

Meanwhile, if you have any submissions, you can leave them in comments here--I'll promise to get them to the next host.

UPDATE 12/14: Cheryl of the blog Finding My Way: Journey of an Uppity Intellectual Activist Crip will host the January edition--details soon!

UPDATE 12/19: Cheryl has details for #62 at her blog, here. Short version: submissions due January 11, carnival posts the 14th, and the theme is "Holidays." If you don't come out of this holiday season with stories or rants or photos or whatever, reach back into the archives or write about some other holiday experience. Or submit any timely posts, those will work too.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Virginia McKinney (1924-2009)

Obituary in the Los Angeles Times today for Virginia McKinney, who founded and ran the Center for Communicative Development in Koreatown. She became deaf in 1957, when she was 33, from an allergic reaction to a vaccine. Her program addressed the needs of adults with hearing loss, especially those for whom few other options existed. The obituary mentions her making 16mm films to train herself to read lips in the 1960s, and publishing an ASL dictionary; and that in recent years she worked on creating educational software. Oscar-winning director Jessica Yu is making a documentary about McKinney and her work--if the obituary piques your interest, keep an eye out for the film's release.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wheels for Wheels Residency Fellowship

An nice opportunity for writers and artists who use wheelchairs:
The Wheels for Wheels Residency Fellowship Award for an outstanding visual artist or writer who uses a wheelchair and/or lives with a spinal cord injury. This award is supported by the Dana & Christopher Reeve Foundation and VSC friends and alumni.

The awards provide four-week residencies at the Vermont Studio Center, an international creative community in the mountains of northern Vermont. A VSC Residency includes:
• uninterrupted working time in a private studio,
• the counsel of six distinguished Visiting Artists (2 painters/2 scultptors/2 writers) per month,
• three meals a day,
• accessible, private accommodations, and
• the companionship of talented peers from around the world.

The Residency Period: May 2010 through Dec. 2010.
Deadline for receiving applications: Feb. 15, 2010.
Notification of results: April 15, 2010.

To apply, download an application at

Friday, December 04, 2009

More Items from the Connecticut Historical Society Library

They've been cataloging cataloging cataloging at the Connecticut Historical Society Library lately, if their blog is any indication. Another recent addition relevant to disability history:

The Retreat for the Insane account book (Account Books/Ms 56441). "Opened in 1824, the Retreat is now Hartford Hospital’s Institute for Living. The account book lists patients from 1824 to 1853. Each patient’s entry contains their name, date of admission, date of discharge, residence, principal on bond, surety on bond, weekly rate for board and medical attendance and by whom payable (bondsman, state, or town), total board, total of other expenses, number of weeks and days spent at the Retreat, and remarks. Remarks included “discharged recovered”, “restored”, “much improved”, and “no improvement”. Additionally, some patients died while still admitted."

Remember, this is a newly cataloged item--so if you're looking for a 19c research project and you're in New England, maybe a visit to Hartford is in order.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Disability Blog Carnival #60 is up NOW!

[Visual description: First Disability Blog Carnival logo by Kay Olson, features a parking sign that says "Somewhat Disabled" and the words "Disability Blog Carnival (come share the uncertainty)."]

Go, go, check it out at at FWD/Forward--- the theme is intersectionality and it's chock-full of links to great posts on that and other subjects. And while you're there, read the rest of this excellent new(ish) group blog. It's a daily stop on my blogsurfing tour.

Hey, and did you notice, that's SIXTY editions of the Disability Blog Carnival? Very cool. Thanks to all the past hosts, contributors, writers, readers, commenters... you all make for a terrific event I look forward to every time, and I think a lot of other people look for it and learn from it too.

Next edition --#61-- is at Alison Bergblom Johnson's blog, Writing Mental Illness. It'll go up on December 13, but she's requesting submissions by December 4, on the topic "Telling Disability" if you like, or you're also free to submit links to other recent posts you'd like to share with the wider 'sphere.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

CFP: Disability History (25-27 June 2010, Preston UK)

News from the disability history community, found on H-Disability today:

Disability History Conference 2010

Disability History: looking forward to a better past?
June 25th - 27th, 2010

University of Central Lancashire
Preston, UK

Plenary Speakers:
Professor Catherine J Kudlick, University of California, Davis
Professor Tom Shakespeare, University of Newcastle

Disability history has emerged in recent years as an increasingly
popular sub-discipline of historical research, covering social,
cultural, medical, practical, gendered, technological and linguistic
aspects of the lives of those seen by society as having ‘disabled’
bodies and minds. The Disability History Group are pleased to announce
their latest conference. ‘Disability History: looking forward to a
better past?’ which promotes the DHG’s goal to advance research into
the history of disability. It is hoped the conference will broaden the
scope of disability history and deliver fresh and dynamic perspectives
on the way disability has been used to legitimate and understand norms,
social relations, inequality, and oppression. This includes historical
research into individuals, groups and institutions, as well as
representations/constructions and perspectives on disability.

The overarching theme of this conference is ‘Where are we, how did we
get here and where are we going next?’. To this end, the conference is
dedicated to an evaluation of all aspects of disability history at
regional, national and international levels. In ‘looking forward to a
better past’, the DHG hopes to encourage lively and informed debate on
the current state of disability history; how the discipline has emerged
and arrived at this point; and where scholars working in the discipline
will go in the future. However, paper topics are not prescriptive - we
invite potential speakers to consider the ways that their current
research has emerged and its context within the sub-discipline of
disability history.

The DHG invites panel or individual contributions from scholars and
postgraduates working in this field, and is keen to consider papers on a
wide range of topics. Papers covering all aspects of disability history,
as well as papers on the historical and future development of disability
history, are welcomed.

Abstracts of 250 words should be sent to Dr Martin Atherton: by March 31, 2010.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Complete Streets Movement

According to a recent post at StreetsBlog, the U.S. DOT has begun actively touting its contributions to bicycle and transit infrastructure, including last week's premiere of the Washington D.C. Bikestation [see flickr slideshow below]. The Bicycle Foundation of Greater Philadelphia on their blog bikePHL [story link] takes this one step further, promoting a vision of Complete Streets, responsive to the needs of all users including those with disabilities, as an important first step towards promoting complete communities. This is the first I have heard of this movement, but it seems like an exciting adjunct to the more widely recognized principle of universal design. Are you aware of "complete streets" approaches to design that have taken root in your communities? If so, the editors of DS,TU would love to hear about them.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

November 5: Pierangelo Bertoli (1942-2002)

[Visual description: color photograph of a man in a wheelchair, at a microphone, wearing a black jacket, gesturing with his right hand.]

"....solo alla morte non c'é rimedio..."

Italian singer-songwriter Pierangelo Bertoli was born on this date in 1942, in a working-class family in Modena. When he was four years old, he survived polio, and came to use a wheelchair. He taught himself to play guitar and recorded his first album in 1973. He was a popular figure in Italian music until his death in 2002. His last album, 301 guerra fa (2002), was a collaboration with his son Alberto, also a musician.

Bertoli was a political lyricist, noted for songs about the environment and peace, and worked for the removal of architectural and social barriers for disabled people in Italy. He appeared in an Italian television spot demonstrating the inaccessibility of phone booths. Wish I could find that on YouTube, but meanwhile there are plenty of performance videos of Bertoli, if you're curious.

Taking the Water Cure, Brattleboro VT, 1845

New materials just cataloged at the Connecticut Historical Society Library include a journal from a mother/daughter trip to "take the cure" in Vermont:
In 1845 Sarah Coit Day and her daughter Catherine traveled to the Brattleboro (Vermont) Water-Cure for treatment. Day kept a journal (Ms. 47047), writing about taking tepid baths, walking, the view of the Connecticut River, and other people who were also at the facility. Though not mentioned in the journal, the Brattleboro Water-Cure was attended by many well-to-do people, including Harriet Beecher Stowe and her sister, Catharine Beecher.
If you're in New England and looking for a small history project, this journal--an inside report from a treatment facility in the 1840s--might be worth a visit.

This is also in the same list of new catalog items at the same library:
...[T]he Boston and Albany Railroad Co. Surgeon’s record (Ms. 36423). This is a record of incidents occurring on railroad property. Each entry contained the name of the injured individual, their position with the company, what happened,and where they resided (if they survived). Injuries reported included fingers being crushed, ankles being twisted, and more gruesome occurrences, such as bowels being torn open.
Might be a very useful source on occupational injuries, and with names and addresses it might be linkable to other sources, and the start of a nice study.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Save the Dates: Events at UCLA in February 2010

I just found out about this stuff on the Center for the Study of Women calendar website. I don't know anymore than I'm posting here, so you'll have to track after the details yourself. Try the website for The Body Symposium Series for starters. All events are free and open to the public, but as always for campus events, you should plan ahead for things like parking.

Wednesday 17 February
Glorya Kaufman Hall
AXIS/Access-Ability: Choreographing Disability

Petra Kuppers and Victoria Marks
Talk-back with Judith Smith and member of the AXIS Dance Company
led by Susan Leigh Foster, Professor, UCLA Department of World Arts and Cultures

Thursday 18 February

Humanities 193
Disability, Queerness, and Spaces of Normativity

Robert McRuer, George Washington University: "Disabling Sex: Notes Toward a Crip Theory of Sexuality"
David Serlin, UC San Diego: "Was the Elephant Man Gay?"
Respondent: Helen Deutsch, UCLA
Chair: Arthur Little, UCLA

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Encyclopedia of American Disability History

[Image description: Three volumes of the Encyclopedia of American Disability History, overlapping each other, on a table]

Just realized I hadn't posted about this here yet--the Encyclopedia of American Disability History (Facts-on-File 2009) is now out, for real, in print. And it's heavy, too. If you're a longtime reader here, you may notice that several entries seem eerily familiar; that's because they started as blog posts right here at DS,TU. I wrote about 25 entries in the encyclopedia, and compiled the "common quotes" feature, and a lot of recent dates for the timeline (again, by looking through the DS,TU archives!).

Institute on Disabilities to move to new TempleU campus location

In case you haven't heard the news yet, the Institute on Disabilities will be moving in mid-November to a new location on the Temple University Campus. We are excited by the opportunity be so close to this vibrant hub of activity on the Temple University campus. Watch this space for news on our open house in December 2009 or Junuary 2010.

Monday, October 26, 2009

SDS 2010 Call for Proposals

Start making your plans to visit Philadelphia in June 2010 ...

Call for Proposals for the 22nd Annual Conference of the Society for Disability Studies is now posted and available.
SDS Dates: June 2-5, 2010
SDS Host: Institute on Disabilities, Temple University
Conference Location: Howard Gittis Student Center, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Conference Theme: Disability in the Geo-Political Imagination
Submission Forms: All proposals must use the SDS CFP submission form available at the 2010 SDS conference site
Proposal Deadline: Midnight EST, December 15, 2009

Disability Blog Carnival #59 is up NOW!

[visual description: logo for the Disability Blog Carnival, featuring a vintage patent drawing of a torso brace, with the words "the Disability Blog Carnival a bracing event" superimposed in blue text]

Go, now, check it out--Liz Henry has crafted a fine, fine edition of the Disability Carnival around the theme of "Disability and Work." You'll want to settle in to read it; the contributions are so good, so thoughtful, so rich in ideas and experiences, it's worth savoring.

Next month's Disability Blog Carnival (#60!) is due to appear at the excellent new blog, FWD: Feminists with Disabilities in November--date TBA. Because we're skipping the still inaccessible and spam-filled system from now on, don't use that form anymore; instead, leave links in comments here, email the FWD blog (they'll give us a preferred email address for submissions when we get the date), or put "disability blog carnival" in the text of your submission, I can usually find those too.

UPDATE: Here's the official call for submissions for Disability Blog Carnival #60, to be hosted at FWD on November 19th, with the theme "Disability and Intersectionality."

UPDATE #2: Alison Bergblom Johnson will host Disability Blog Carnival #61 at her blog, Writing Mental Illness, on December 13th (she requests submissions by December 4). Her chosen theme, "Telling about Disability." Here's her official call for submissions.

Want to host in January? We're looking for hosts willing to put a good bit of work and creativity into the gathering and presentation of the links --it's usually fun, but it's also a commitment. I'll need to know an address for submissions, a date, and a theme (if you have one).

Friday, October 16, 2009

John Lind (1854-1930)

John Lind (LOC)
Originally uploaded by The Library of Congress

Photo above is from today's Library of Congress uploads to Flickr. John Lind (1854-1930) was a teacher and lawyer, the 14th governor of Minnesota, a US Representative, and President Wilson's envoy on Mexican affairs. You can't tell from this photo, but he was also noted for being an amputee--his lower left arm was lost in a sawmill accident when he was thirteen.

Because he was such a public figure, it's not difficult to find contemporary references to Lind's impairment. Many of them add the lost limb to a heroic narrative:

"His quiet and collected personality, made more heroic by the loss of his left arm, impresses one with immediate confidence and respect." (The American-Scandinavian Review (January 1913): 15.)

"Soon afterward he began work in a sawmill, in which he lost his left hand by an accident. This was probably not altogether a misfortune; for it compelled an immediate abandonment of manual labor for intellectual pursuits and thus directed his destiny to higher spheres of action." (Algot Strand, ed., A History of The Swedish-Americans of Minnesota (1910): 73)
But Lind was a politician, not a saint, and some other references make that clear. "For a one-armed man John Lind can make some telling blows once in a while," reported the Moose Lake Star on 17 January 1901, and they weren't being metaphorical. Fresh from his term as Governor, Lind walked into a newspaper office and attacked an editor who had long criticized him.

[posted on the occasion of a certain Minnesota-based blogger's birthday]

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

October 14: Katarzyna Rogowiec (b. 1977)

Just trolling around today's birthdays on Wikipedia, spotted Paralympian Katarzyna Rogowiec. She was born on this date in 1977, in Rabka-Zdrój, Poland. At age 3, she lost both hands in an accident with farming equipment (she doesn't remember the event). She's an economist by education and occupation. Rogowiec won two gold medals at the 2006 Turin Paralympics, as a cross-country skiier, and she's the current world champion paralympian in the biathlon event as well. Just last week she finished second in the women's cross-country skiing 15km event at the Paralympic Winter World Cup held in Solleftea, Sweden.

Monday, October 12, 2009

October 12: Frances Dana Gage (1808-1884)

[Visual description: engraved portrait of Frances Dana Gage]

You have attempted to mold seventeen millions of human souls into one shape, and make them all do one thing.

--Frances Dana Gage, on women's restricted place in society

Today marks the 201st anniversary of the birth of Frances Dana Gage, an American reformer, suffragist, and abolitionist. She was born in Ohio, married there, and raised eight children. She presided over a woman's rights convention in 1851 in Akron, where she famously introduced Sojourner Truth as a speaker (the refrain "Ain't I a Woman?" came from Gage's summary of Truth's speech that day). She toured giving lectures on woman's rights and abolition throughout the "old West." During the Civil War, she worked for the Sanitary Commission, visiting military hospitals and prisons.

In 1865, she was in a bad carriage accident and never recovered from her wounds; this was followed by a stroke in 1867. So her post-war work was more in writing and encouraging the movements she held dear. She was also a frequent contributor of fiction to the literary magazines of the day, and wrote children's books, poetry, and novels as well.

Gage was a Universalist by lifelong religious affiliation, but "Then came the war, then trouble, then paralysis, and for 14 years I have not listened to a sermon because I am too great a cripple. I have read much, thought much, and feel that life is too precious to be given to doctrines."

Friday, October 09, 2009

Keeping Helen Company in Statuary Hall

[Visual description: black-and-white photograph of the statue of Father Damien in the National Statuary Hall]

A statue of Helen Keller was unveiled this week in the US Capitol's Statuary Hall, with great fanfare, because "It’s the first statue in the Capitol showing a person with a disability." Oh?

Regular readers of this blog will know that statements like this send me scurrying to check that list twice. I suspected that she was only the first famously-disabled person represented in Statuary Hall, because disability just isn't that rare. The difficulty of naming a definite "first" also reflects the very fluid nature of disability as a social category.

But even that iffy "famous for being disabled, like really disabled" distinction isn't quite true. Father Damien (1840-1889), Roman Catholic priest, quite famously contracted leprosy during his mission work on Molokai. Damien's statue, by Marisol Escobar, has been in the Capitol since 1969. The stylized bronze figure shows Damien holding a cane with a gnarled hand, and gives some indication of his facial scarring as well.

Hard to call the new Keller statue "the first" if Father Damien and his cane have been there for forty years, isn't it?

UPDATE: Wheelie Catholic also wrote about Father Damien this week--seems he's in the news.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

New Journal | Ethnographica - Call for Papers

First call for Papers - link

Ethnographica Journal of Culture and Disability

The editorial committee of Ethnographica Journal of Culture and Disability (EJCD) invites papers from different areas of disability studies informed by culture, though we especially welcome papers which take an ethnographic approach.

There are many possible topics, the following being just a small sample: Aging intersecting with gender and ethnicity, public policies in developing and developed countries, disability as a consequence of work environment, (bio-)technology, transborder and transhuman aspects of disability.

Manuscripts submitted to “Ethnographica Journal of Culture and Disability” should not be under simultaneous consideration by any other journal, nor should they have been published elsewhere. The review process takes an average of 5 months. Contact information available at the journal website - link.

Primer Llamado a Publicación - link

Ethnographica Journal of Culture and Disability

En Septiembre 2009, La Red Internacional de Cultura y Discapacidad (CADIN) hace su primer llamado a publicación en la revista científica Ethnographica Journal of Culture and Disability (EJCD).

El comité editorial de esta revista, invita a someter a revisión a aquellos artículos que deseen ser publicados y que estén relacionados con estudios en discapacidad y cultura, especialmente aquellos que tengan una aproximación etnográfica.

Los posibles tópicos pueden ser: la interrelación entre envejecimiento, genero y etnicidad; políticas públicas en países desarrollados y en desarrollo en términos de discapacidad; discapacidad como consecuencia de accidentes laborales; desarrollos biotecnológicos asociados a discapacidad, situaciones limítrofes asociadas a la discapacidad, entre otros.

Los manuscritos que sean sometidos a revisión no deberán estar al mismo tiempo bajo revisión en otras revistas científicas o estar ya publicados. El proceso de revisión se estima alrededor de 5 meses.

Para mayores informaciones y para enviar sus textos por favor contactar Jori de Coster y Carolina Valdebenito. - link

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Help Revive the Disability Blog Carnival! Edition #59, coming up...

[Disability Blog Carnival logo, featuring a photo of an old hospital and "Can't shut us up now" as the slogan in yellow]

Thanks to Liz Henry, the Disability Blog Carnival may be getting a second wind. She's agreed to host an edition on October 25, with the theme "Disability and Work." Here's the official invitation:
For this blog carnival, please write about anything you please on or tangential to Disability and Work.

Here are some suggested starting points: What work do you do? How's that going? Do you get paid for it, or is it volunteer work or something you do because you just love it? What blocks you from employment? If you're employed, what could be better? Do you want a paying job, or do you feel you contribute to society just fine without one? If you're a family member, friend or ally of a person with a disability, what thoughts do you have on work and employment? What is the employment situation like for PWD in your country or region ?

Email your post URL, title, and the name you go by to Liz, .

I'll post the Carnival on Composite: Tech & Poetics and
Hack Ability: DIY for PWD on October 25.

Ready, set, go! And for more ideas for starters, check out Liz Henry's own "Working Women with Disabilities," posted yesterday at BlogHer.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Elyn Saks wins a 2009 MacArthur "genius" grant

USC law professor Elyn Saks, author of the memoir The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness (which I posted about last year, here), has won one of this year's prestigious MacArthur Foundation Fellowships--the so-called "genius" grants--that "celebrate and support exceptional men and women of all ages and in all fields who dream, explore, take risks, invent, and build in new and unexpected ways in the interest of shaping a better future for us all."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Disability Studies, Temple U. lectures will now be distributed through IOD website

Disability Studies, Temple U. lectures beginning Fall 2009 will be available to our readers through the Insitute on Disabilities website. Allison Carey's September 9 lecture, the first of the the semester, is now available in print and audio formats - enjoy! Since this is a new effort of the Institute, we certainly appreciate your patience as we post them after the lecture. And we welcome your feedback and further suggestions.

Film Festival on Disability - Film Entries Wanted!

"different from what?" Film and Video Festival
Distributed September 19, 2009

Festival Dates: January 29-31, 2010
Festival Location: Tempe, Arizona USA
Submission deadline: October 25, 2009 - please check website for details

This festival explores the expression and construction of ability, disability, and identity from multiple perspectives. In what ways do our cultural practices reflect conventions and expectations that make some differences visible while obscuring others? Who and what conspires to compose these defining images and in what ways are they avoided, resisted, negotiated, and challenged? Participants will be intrigued by this mélange of film, conversation, and celebration of the differences that punctuate our community discourses.

Feature length and short films (30 minutes or under) are to being accepted for showcase in the first annual 2010 different from what? Film Festival. We welcome submissions in the following categories: drama, comedy, documentary, animation or experimental.

Feature length and short films (30 minutes or under) will be accepted for competition in the 2010 different from what? Film Festival Competition. We are accepting submissions in the following categories: drama, comedy, documentary, animation or experimental. Cash prizes and awards will be granted as follows: * Best of Festival * Best of Category: Drama, Comedy, Documentary, Animation and Experimental * Audience Prize * Spirit of the Festival

different from what? Film Festival will hold its premiere at the MADCAP Theaters in Tempe, AZ, during January 29-31, 2010. The Festival will feature productions that display a wide breadth of perspectives on disability as a life experience, an identity, and a social and political construct. The Festival is a student-led initiative organized in collaboration with the Equity Alliance at Arizona State University, an organization providing services that support learning around equity, access, and participation.

For entry requirements, please download and refer to the general call, competition call, and entry form document attachments. For other questions or comments, or if you would like to sponsor our festival, please email us at
Compensation: Prizes will be awarded for winners in student competition.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Flickr, Australian sopranos, and disability history

Young Marjorie Lawrence, probably as Elsa at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, late 1930's / unknown photographer
Originally uploaded by State Library of New South Wales collection

The State Library of New South Wales recently posted some photos to their "opera" set on Flickr that have relevance to disability history. Above, a portrait of Marjorie Lawrence (1907-1979), taken sometime in the 1930s. She was a noted Australian performer of Wagner heroines (as you can probably imagine from the long blonde tresses and studded headgear here). In 1941, Lawrence contracted polio. Eighteen months later, after treatment with Sister Elizabeth Kenny, she returned to the stage. Lawrence generally performed in a seated or reclining position thereafter, with creative staging that incorporated her stance into the visuals. The photo below (from the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra) is from a performance by Marjorie Lawrence after polio, a year before her retirement in 1952. She taught after that date, until her death in 1979.

[Visual description: Marjorie Larence in Egyptian costume, being carried on a throne by eight young men also in costume]

Florence Austral's photo (right; she's shown making marmalade in 1953, for some reason) has also recently appeared in the same flickrstream. Austral (1892-1968) was another Australian soprano who specialized in Wagnerian roles. She was very well known and had toured much of the world with her work when she began to experience the symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1930. She continued to perform, moving gradually away from operas and into concerts and recitals, before her retirement in 1940. She, too, taught singing after she stopped performing, in Austral's case at the Newcastle Conservatorium from 1954-1959. Austral died in 1968.

Did Austral and Lawrence known one another? Did they compare notes on their efforts to maintain a performing career through the realities of a diagnosis that's both public and significant? I don't know enough about opera history or Australian women's history to know the answer. But maybe there's an article in this, for someone who can follow up.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

September 13: Phineas Gage's Accident (1848)

[Image description: a daguerreotype photograph of Phineas Gage, framed in gold; he's holding the iron rod that injured his skull. Gage is facing the camera, is dressed in a suit and cleanshaven; he has combed, dark hair and one closed eyelid.]

On this date in 1848, a 25-year-old railroad worker named Phineas Gage was injured in an accident on the job, outside Cavendish, Vermont. An iron rod that was about three-and-a-half feet long and a little more than thirteen pounds in weight was driven through Gage's head in an explosion. It went up through his cheek and out the top of his head. Gage survived both the accident and the treatment he received for his injuries. He died almost twelve years later, age 36, in California.

Those are the bare facts. But the legends surrounding Phineas Gage are more elaborate. Maybe you ran into the name in a freshman psych class, or on a television hospital drama. Maybe it was accompanied by the explanation that the survival of Gage encouraged the development of neurosurgery as a discipline, or maybe you heard that his demeanor changed so dramatically after the accident that it revolutionized thinking about the organic basis of personality.

Well, not so much. Turns out, nobody really knows much for certain about Gage's personality changes--the main source on that element of the story was compiled years after his death, mostly from his mother's decades-old recollections. And neurosurgery and theories about the organic basis of personality developed from many sources; the Gage story may have made a good illustration of the latter, but it wasn't really a spur to such theorizing. The fabulations around Gage were noticed almost as soon as they began. Scottish neurologist David Ferrier commented in 1877:
In investigating reports on diseases and injuries of the brain, I am constantly amazed at the inexactitude and distortion to which they are subject by men who have some pet theory to support. The facts suffer so frightfully.
Gage recovered impressively from his brain and skull injuries--though he lost the use of an eye, and had some significant scars, of course. His skull's shape was changed, so much so that a plaster cast was made of his head for exhibition purposes. Gage also made some public appearances, so great was the curiosity surrounding his story. In time, the sensation died off, and he went to work as a coach driver in Chile for a period of years. Ill-health sent him to San Francisco to live with his mother and sister; he died there in May of 1860, age 36, after several months of experiencing severe convulsions. Six years later, his mother gave permission for Gage's skull to be displayed with the infamous rod in an anatomical museum at Harvard, where they remain to be seen today. (The site of the accident in Vermont is also marked with a monument describing the event.)

The image above, a daguerreotype of Gage taken after the accident, was only identified as Gage this year (2009). Until recently, the private holders of the image (Jack and Beverly Wilgus) believed it was an unnamed whaler, holding a harpoon. They said as much when they posted the image to Flickr. A Flickr commenter told them that the iron bar was no harpoon; another suggested this might be a photo of Phineas Gage, and that turned out to be the case. (Yeah for Flickr commenters!)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Wheelchair imagery in Lost publicity

[Visual description: a retro-style poster with a bright green background, white stylized wheelchair with footprints leading away from it and a knife stuck into the adjacent surface. The slogan "Just don't tell him what he can't do" is in the upper right; the title "Terry O'Quinn is Locke" is in the lower right; the words "A deceitful father/a fateful accident/a mysterious island/a dangerous obsession/a powerful purpose/a terrible sacrifice/and/a suitcase full of knives" are in a box in the lower left.]

Heard about this poster this morning. The television show LOST has an eighteen-hour final season starting in January, so to keep fan interest stoked, ABC has returned to the show's elaborate online publicity/ARG universe with a series of sixteen commissioned posters. This one, by designer Olly Moss, is apparently already sold out (it was a small run of 300 original screenprints).

Interesting that the illustrator chose an empty wheelchair to represent Locke. The character Locke has only been seen using a wheelchair in two or three episodes, over five seasons. According to his backstory, he used a wheelchair for four years, after a dramatic fall injured his spine; his ability to walk is miraculously restored in the plane crash that starts the show's story. Only a few of the other characters know he ever used a wheelchair, and it's not a very frequent topic of dialogue. Locke has a wide array of experiences and traits that get more screentime, but it seems he's still "the former wheelchair user" above all, maybe because disability can be just that overwhelming an element of identity sometimes.

That said, I do kinda like the retro look of this poster. It presents Locke as an edgy Steve McQueen-ish film hero, with "a suitcase full of knives"--and the wheelchair as part of his "dangerous" and "mysterious" complicated backstory--well, at least it's not pitiful.

Mark Blumberg at Mutter Museum!

Hi Folks,
There is a very exciting event this coming Friday. Mark Blumberg, from Iowa University is speaking at Mutter Museum at 6:30 . The conference is free and open to the public, but registration is needed. You can register at
For those of you not familiar with his work Mark Blumberg he is the author of an amazing book Freaks of Nature which shows how even hard sciencists can have a progressive, groundbreaking approach to disabilities approach, being at the same time great writers. More on the book can be found at:


Monday, September 07, 2009

September 7: Daniel Inouye (b. 1924)

[Image description: A black-and-white portrait of a young Daniel Inouye]
Oftentimes, it takes as much, if not more, courage to speak out and oppose our government’s actions. It should be viewed no less patriotically than those who wave the American flag.

Happy 85th birthday to Senator Daniel Inouye, who has served in the Senate continuously since 1959. Inouye is also one of the several disabled veterans serving in Congress.

He was born to Japanese immigrant parents in Honolulu, and joined the Army in 1943; Japanese-Americans were prevented from enlisting before that year. In April 1945, his right forearm was amputated due to battlefield injuries in Italy. He met future colleague Bob Dole when both were recovering from their war injuries at an army hospital. Inouye abandoned plans for a medical career and used the GI Bill to study political science at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. The day Hawaii became a state in 1959, Inouye was sworn in as its first senator.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Another "hilarious" blind cartoon character ?!?!?

[Visual description: animation still; the human character is an African-American woman wearing a white headscarf, shawl, and dress, sunglasses, bracelet, ring, and large gold earrings; she's holding the head of a large snake in her hands, and smiling at it.]

Hoo-boy. Get ready for Mama Odie, the fairy godmother in Disney's new feature, "The Princess and the Frog." She's a 200-year-old swamp-dwelling seer and she's blind (get it? get it?). She has a "seeing-eye" snake. Yeah, that won't confuse any children about the work of service animals...

Allison Carey, On the Margins of Citizenship

I want to take this opportunity to get the word out about very good friend, Disability Studies colleague and DS,TU reader, Allison Carey's first book, On the Margins of Citizenship, released today by Temple University Press. For those of you who live in the area, we are hosting a reception and lecture by Allison in celebration. Several DS,TU contributors enjoyed the opportunity to work alongside Allison at Temple University's Institute on Disabilities in the early 1990s before she moved on to the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Shippensburg University. We would love to have you join us this one-of-a-kind event: lecture, book signing and reception. The talk, as well as the book, examines the discourses of rights and citizenship for people with intellectual disabilities as well as the sociopolitical factors that too often diminish the effectiveness of their ability in securing choice and self-determination.
When: Wednesday, September 9, from 12 noon to 1:30 pm
Where: 1810 Liacouras Walk, in the ground floor conference room, in the North Philadelphia main campus of Temple University. Maps and Directions.
RSVP: on our Disability Studies Meetup site so we will know to welcome you properly.
UPDATE: The typescipt and audio recording of Allison Carey's lecture have been posted on the Institute on Disabilities' website - enjoy!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Disability Studies Speakers - Temple U. Fall 2009

SAVE THE DATE! The Institute on Disabilities has announced their lineup of speakers for Fall 2009. Each of these lectures will be held at 12:00 noon in the 1810 Liacouras Walk Conference Room on Temple University's main campus. Watch this space (or even better, subscribe to our RSS feed) for more information.

Wed Sep 9, 2009 – Allison C. Carey (Shippensburg University) "On the Margins of
Citizenship: Intellectual Disability and Civil Rights in Twentieth
Century America"
Wed Oct 21, 2009 – Tobin Siebers (University of Michigan) “Disability Aesthetics”
Wed Nov 18, 2009 – Leroy Franklin Moore, Jr. (San Francisco) "Krip-Hop
Nation: Disability in African American Music."

Monday, August 24, 2009


Gotta love the headline "Stephen Hawking Both British and Not Dead." In fact, I'm considering making pins with a similar phrase--want one?

Update: I made the pins.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Accessibility and Inaccessibility at Nay Aug Park

While we were in Scranton PA on this month's trip, we visited the new accessible treehouse in Nay Aug Park. Very dramatic! The walkway through the trees lands you in a wooden structure hovering 150 feet above the gorge. Maybe not a good spot for those bothered by heights, but it's a beautiful design. (There's a brief video of the treehouse here, and another video view here. Neither has audio beyond the ambient sounds of the site.)

Less beautiful was the inaccessibility at the nearby Everhart Museum. To get in, you ring a bell at the emergency entrance in back--using a button that's likely too high for many chair users to reach. A guard comes and opens the door, and you use an elevator from there. But to get out? Good question! There is no bell on the inside of the same door. My son and I waited inside the (very hot, glass-enclosed) vestibule for a while, shouted "hello? guard?" a few times, and eventually had to resort to pantomime to ask family members on the outside to ring the bell for us. I asked the guard if we missed something, if there was some way to alert him that we wanted to leave, or some other exit we should use. Nope. Lovely. I was a volunteer at the Everhart in my teens; I'm disappointed -- but not exactly surprised -- that so little has changed there in the past thirty years.

Disability Blog Carnival #58 is up now!

Sorry I'm so late with this, we've been out of town. Disability Blog Carnival #58 is up now at Touched by an Alien, hosted by Laura, with the theme "Relationships and Disability." It's a good collection, go check it out.

I've had a volunteer to do the next edition, but so far not one non-spam entry for it... and I'm thinking we might be heading to the end of the Disability Blog Carnival's run. Blogging has changed a lot in the past three years; there are many, many more disability-related blogs out there, and there are many ways to manage favorite content across blogs, and alert friends to the most interesting bits you've seen. I think the Carnival was a good thing--it certainly had many fine moments--but many blog carnivals are struggling these days, and maybe the need for the format itself has diminished.

What do you think? I'm interested in your thoughts. Stay tuned for more on this.

Monday, August 03, 2009

OAH Magazine of History 23(3)(July 2009)

[Visual description: cover of the Organization of American Historians Magazine of History, featuring a sepia-toned photo of an African-American man in uniform, crutches at his side, displaying the site of his leg amputation]

The current issue of the OAH Magazine of History (Vol 23, no. 3 , July 2009) is devoted to Disability History. Here's the Table of Contents:

Teaching Disability History
Daniel J. Wilson

Making Disability an Essential Part of American History
Paul K. Longmore

"Nothing About Us Without Us": Disability Rights in America
Richard K. Scotch

Creating Group Identity: Disabled Veterans and American Government
David Gerber

(Extraordinary) Bodies of Knowledge: Recent Scholarship in American
Disability History
Full Bibliography
Susan Burch

"No Defectives Need Apply": Disability and Immigration
Daniel J. Wilson

Using Biography to Teach Disability History
Kim E. Nielsen

Disability History Online
Penny L. Richards

Only the introduction, the full bibliography of Susan Burch's article, and my article are available open-access online--click the links at the link for the issue, above--the rest, however, are well worth tracking down in hard copy at your local university library (apparently individual copies of the magazine can also be ordered).

Does the cover illustration look familiar? If you're a longtime DS,TU reader, it should--we had a post about that photo in January 2008, and I suggested it for my article. I guess they liked it enough to promote it to the cover.

Prolific blogger explores the world of vision impairment and audiobooks

My favorite blogger Ethan Zuckerman is getting retinal surgery and exploring options for books on tape the entertain him while undertaking carpentry projects around the house during recover. Since Ethan is very well connected into the tech geek world, I thought our readers would be interested in some of the options he is considering. He invites you to share your comments and suggestions, as long as he realize that he won't be able to read them on a computer screen until September.

Normal at Any Cost

New book of note: Normal at Any Cost: Tall Girls, Short Boys, and the Medical Industry's Quest to Manipulate Height.

This is the first detailed account of the way in which tall girls and short kids have been experimented on for decades.

The discovery that massive doses of estrogens could stunt a girl's growth, and that human growth hormone could make a child grow faster, turned height into an industry. A cultural disadvantage became a medical problem.

... "Normal at Any Cost" chronicles how genetically engineered growth hormone, a product so profitable and aggressively marketed that it sparked court challenges and criminal prosecutions, launched the biotechnology industry. Yet, there were only a few thousand approved patients. The book describes the scene as, twenty years later, the FDA approved this product for healthy children and ushered in a new era of treating kids for height. Doctors now wield an arsenal that allows them to time and manipulate puberty, as well as to administer a variety of powerful hormones in doses far beyond what is natural or what some of their colleagues believe is safe. All for a few inches in children who have nothing physically wrong with them but where they stand on the growth charts.

"Normal at Any Cost" does what physicians and pharmaceutical companies do not -- follows up some of the tall girls and short boys, now grown women and men, whose lives changed because of these treatments.

As the new age of genetic medicine offers parents and doctors increasing opportunities to alter inherited characteristics, the temptations are only beginning.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Ugly Laws reviewed in Cleveland Plain Dealer

Earlier Penny posted here on Sue Schweik's recent publication and book tour. It is fascinating to see how local newspapers are covering The Ugly Laws. Sue shared with her facebook friends a link to the recent review in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. This is a model of how academic work can open up otherwise occluded historical phenomena.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Conference: War Wounds (Canberra, 24-25 September 2009)

[Image description: Logo for the conference, central photo is black and white, a young man in uniform, arm in a sling)

A conference announcement from the H-Net digest. Aside from the cringeworthy "triumph over" language here,
it looks like an interesting program:

BAE Systems Theatre,
Australian War Memorial, Canberra
Thursday 24 and Friday 25 September, 2009

The history of warfare and the history of medicine have been closely linked. War has often been an accelerator of advances in medical treatment and surgery as doctors and nurses struggled to cope with the human cost and suffering of mankind’s most destructive acts.

The major wars of the last hundred years—from the First World War to more recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan—have driven advances in treatments for wounds and pain management, the use of antibacterial agents and more effective prophylaxis against disease and infection, as well as the development of radical new approaches to evacuating, treating and healing the injured.

Nevertheless, war continues to inflict its toll of carnage and human misery on not just combatants but also civilians who are, too often, either the intended or accidental targets of modern conflicts. The relationship between medicine and the military can also produce challenges and conflict.

For veterans and their families the post-war legacy of combat experience can sometimes seem as severe and persistent as the effects of wounds and injuries. War-damaged veterans are reminder of the enduring impact of war on Australian society.

The Australian War Memorial is convening this two-day conference to bring together eminent historians specialising in the medical and demographic consequences of warfare, medical practitioners and researchers in the field of military medicine, former and serving medical officers, surgeons, nurses and veterans. They will explore the impact of war, wounds and trauma through the historical record and personal experiences.

Conference themes

Major themes to be addressed by speakers include:

  • Casualties in war, treatment in the field and medical evacuation, surgical teams and field hospitals
  • Soldiers’ and doctors’ perspectives (personal accounts) of wounds and treatment
  • Mine casualties, fear of wounds and acute trauma on the battlefield
  • Shell shock, self inflicted wounds and combat fatigue
  • Illnesses and diseases of war (malaria, dysentery, venereal disease, etc.), maintaining soldiers’ health, the evolution of service medicine
  • Facially disfigured soldiers, advances in surgery, rehabilitation of wounded veterans
  • The cost of war and veterans’ health studies, the aftermath and post mortems, including the debate over the effects of ‘Agent Orange’ in Vietnam
  • Living with the effects, triumph over disabilities
  • The lighter side (doctors’ and veterans’ memories)

Join us at the Australian War Memorial for an absorbing, stimulating and, at times, confronting exploration of the interaction of medicine and war.

This conference is being convened by the Australian War Memorial. The support of the Australian Government through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs is gratefully acknowledged.

More information.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sue Schweik, The Ugly Laws: Disability in Public

Sue Schweik's long-awaited book, The Ugly Laws: Disability in Public is now available as part of the History of Disability series from NYU Press. For much of the twentieth century, there were local laws in many American cities that allowed police to remove unsightly individuals from public view. The Chicago wording is most famous: "Any person who is diseased, maimed, mutilated, or in any way deformed... shall not... expose himself to public view."

Yes, really.

Sue's touring with this book--so if the description piques your interest and you can attend one of these appearances, go check them out.

San Francisco: Tuesday July 14 (With "Tiny" Garcia of Poor Magazine,
Leroy Moore, Coalition on Homelessness and the Po' Poets): Modern Times
, 888 Valencia St, 7 pm. Focus on connections to continuing
criminalization of poverty today.

Cleveland: Sunday July 26: Barnes and Noble Eton Collection, 28801 Chagrin
Blvd, Woodmere, 2 pm. Focus on Cleveland and Ohio disability history.

Chicago: Tuesday July 28: Access Living, 115 W. Chicago, 6-8:30 pm. RSVP
to Riva, 312-640-1919, Focus on poor disabled
peoples' resistance to the laws.

Chicago: Wednesday July 29: Women and Children First bookstore, 5233 North
Clark Street, 7:30 pm. Focus on connections betwen the policing of
disability and the policing of gender in the laws.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Blog Carnivals, past and future

Sorry so late with this--the most recent Disability Blog Carnival, #57, appeared at Jodie's Reimer Reason Blog on June 10. Because participation (like blogging in general) has been down significantly in recent months, the next one will appear on August 13, hosted by Laura at Touched by an Alien: Life as I Know It, with the theme "Relationships and Disability." The form is here, or you can leave links in comments here, or just put "Disability Blog Carnival" in the title or text of your post--I usually find those too.

Meanwhile, this post at Our Bodies Our Blog looks like something some disability bloggers might want to get in on...

Fem 2.0 is hosting a blog carnival on caregiving. Here’s the notice we received via email with encouragement to share:

Women take care of children, spouses, parents, family members, friends. We dominate the caregiving professions, like nursing or social work. Ask anyone receiving care of any kind and he or she will most likely tell you that the primary caregiver is a woman.

Caregiving is a huge part of women’s lives, and so often it’s a job for which we usually don’t get or expect monetary compensation. How can caregiving be made easier to make our lives easier?

Over the next couple of weeks, Fem2.0 is partnering with the National Family Caregivers Association, the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, and the American College of Nurse-Midwives to start a fresh discussion about caregiving and women.

What is caregiving in all its shapes and forms?
What role does it play in women’s lives?
What can be done, or what changes need to happen, to facilitate caregiving?

We are looking for insights, comments, and expertise. We are looking for personal stories to illustrate the human experience of caregiving and to build a sense of solidarity among all caregivers.

Here’s how you can get involved:

1. Blog about it at your own site by July 13, and send Fem2.0 the link, so they can add your post to the blog carnival on Fem2.0. Alternatively you can write a piece for the Fem2.0 blog and send it to

2. Participate in the Women and Caregiving Twittercast Monday, July 13, at 10 p.m. (EST) — hashtag #fem2. Find out how to join a Twittercast here.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Mme Gardriol en chaise, Luchon, 9 juillet 1899

Mme Gardriol en chaise, Luchon, 9 juillet 1899
Originally uploaded by Bibliothèque de Toulouse

Another fin-de-siecle matron in a wheeled chair turned up in the Flickr Commons today, this time in the uploads from the Bibliotheque de Toulouse. Above, a black-and-white photograph shows a man standing behind a woman using a three-wheeled chair, in an outdoor setting we're told is Luchon, on 9 July 1899.

Luchon was a spa town in the French Pyrenees--still is. Who was Madame Gardriol? It's probably safe to assume she was a summer visitor to the springs. Was she someone who used a wheelchair ordinarily, or was this day in 1899 (perhaps like Mrs. Field's photo, in an earlier DS,TU post) a special occasion of touring, for which she chose wheels? Mme Gardriol's chair looks a bit sturdier than the wicker at the Bronx Zoo--hard to tell from this angle, though. The man is holding a parasol--is it for himself, or an additional accommodation for Mme. Gardriol's health and comfort? Anyone have more insight into the Luchon wheelchair accommodations in 1899?

Thursday, June 04, 2009

More Flickr Finds: Wheelchairs at the Bronx Zoo, c1910

So, the photo above (from the Library of Congress uploads to Flickr Commons, from the Bain Collection of news photos taken 1910-1915) depicts Mrs. Field, obviously a well-to-do matron, in what appears to be a wicker wheeled chair, pushed along an outdoor path by an older African-American man in a suit and bowler hat.

Was Mrs. Field a wheelchair user?

Not so fast. Check out this other photo from the same collection:

The woman hurrying past the camera is Mrs. Charles Dana Gibson (of Gibson Girl fame), but look behind her, to the right--chairs like Mrs. Field's, two of them, unoccupied, lined up, with a uniformed attendant nearby. What does the sign say behind Mrs. Gibson? "New York Zoological ...Administrative Building No Admittance" and some smaller print. The Bronx Zoo was called the New York Zoological Park at this time. So, we're at the zoo, and those chairs are apparently available (as a courtesy? as a rental?) for zoo visitors. Much like some zoos and amusement parks have available today.

Hmmm! Were the pathways at the zoo made to accommodate these conveyances? Mrs. Field obviously didn't mind being photographed on wheels during her visit--no stigma? Or, no stigma if it's perceived as a luxury rather than a necessity? Did other zoos and parks have such provisions in the 1910s? When did this trend start? What happened to these chairs? Were any smooth paths reconfigured with steps after the chairs went into disuse--in other words, did a wheelable zoo become less accessible for a time?

Would love to know more about the Bronx Zoo wheelchairs of the 1910s. Anyone?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Housekeeping Time

I notice that I've still got "new" tags on the blogroll for things I added in May 2008. So it must be time to cull through--move dormant and defunct blogs out of the active blogroll, delete links that don't work anymore, and add more blogs. I've given up trying to keep up with ALL the disability-related blogs out there--it's a huge universe compared to where we were just three years ago! But I'll add the links I've got, anyway. Stay tuned.

UPDATE (5/28): Okay, done with my first pass. All bad links have been removed. All dormant blogs have been moved to the dormant/inactive list. Reactivated blogs have been moved off the dormant list and back to the blogroll. Some new links have been added and marked "new." Old "new" tags have been removed (if that makes sense). Some were judgment calls--blogs changed names or URLs, or have only posted once in 2009, or whatever. Please correct me if I've put your blog in the wrong category, under the wrong title, etc.

I was sorry to learn that two disability bloggers, Grace R. Young and Alyric, have died in the past six months without being acknowledged here. Condolences to their families (in both cases, family members put a note on the blog to alert readers to the news).