A Disability History of the United States

By Kuusisto, Stephen | The Wilson Quarterly, Autumn 2012 | Go to article overview

A Disability History of the United States


Kuusisto, Stephen, The Wilson Quarterly


A DISABILITY HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

By Kim E. Nielsen

Beacon Press

240 pp. $25.95

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

IN THE INTRODUCTION TO THEIR INFLUENTIAL 2001 volume The New Disability History, editors Paul K. Longmore and Lauri Umansky rightly noted that American historians have largely overlooked disability in their narratives. It is therefore invigorating to read Kim Nielsen's A Disability History of the United States, which focuses attention on people with disabilities, some of whom are known, and many of whom have been forgotten.

Nielsen excavates the long-buried history of physical difference in America and shows how disability has been a significant factor in the formation of democratic values. From the start, the United States, perhaps more than any other nation, has combined the opportunity to work with narratives of individual ambition: The Puritan work ethic and the Horatio Alger story reflect a cultural imagination that has always been preoccupied with myths of individualism and independence. But Nielsen shows that people with disabilities also reflect the progressive idealism of the United States.

The range of this book is marvelous. It extends from the early efforts by New England Puritans to reconcile the existence of physical difference with their understanding of divine order to the organized activism of Civil War veterans who fought for public assistance, and on to the movements that led to enactment of the Americans With Disabilities Act in 1990. Along the way, Nielsen explores disability in American indigenous cultures; the stories of slaves with disabilities; the establishment of disability as a social, rhetorical, and legal category in the 19th century; the history of eugenics; the oppression of deaf people who were prevented from using sign language; and compulsory sterilization laws.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Nielsen is particularly convincing in describing the hierarchies of power that have contributed throughout history to the marginalization of disabled people. The "ugly laws" of the late 19th and early 20th centuries that forbade people with disabilities or evident deformities to appear on public streets were designed, in part, to hide from general view people who had been injured in industrial accidents or by disease.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A Disability History of the United States
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.