The Massachusetts Historical Society will host a series of programs, seminars, and workshops exploring the field of disability history. These events, aimed at members of the public, academic researchers, and educators, will provide a foundation for future MHS programming centering disability in historical analysis. Through panel conversations, presentations, and discussion, we will introduce the field of disability history, investigate some major research areas in the field such as activism, material culture, medical history, technology, citizenship, and provide a forum to examine new, emerging scholarship in our seminar series. Join us and speakers from around the country for this multi-perspective examination of disability in the American past.

October 2021
Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/sgp-vol-27-p082-083_no-background_for_web.jpg Disability and the American Past An Introduction to Disability History 7 October 2021.Thursday, 5:30PM - 6:30PM Please RSVP   Online Event Beth Linker, University of Pennsylvania; Kim E. Nielsen, University of Toledo; Rabia Belt, Stanford Law School; moderated by Naomi Rogers, Yale School of Medici This conversation will aim to orient us in the field of disability history and serve to lay the ...

This conversation will aim to orient us in the field of disability history and serve to lay the groundwork for subsequent conversations in this series. How is disability used as an analytical tool in historical inquiry? Why is it important to center disability as a defining social category, like race, class, gender, and sexuality? How have definitions of disability varied through history, and what have been the social and cultural impacts of this shifting understanding? This conversation will present a brief history of the field and examine the foundational and emerging scholarship through a moderated, roundtable discussion with our panelists.

Please note, this is a virtual event held on the video conference platform, Zoom. Registrants will receive a confirmation message with attendance information.

More
Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/Seminar_2019-2020/wgs_banner.jpg Disability and the American Past “This milestone in their development as property”: Black Developmental Normalcy and White Developmental Disorder in Early Child Medicine, 1820 – 1865 U.S. 12 October 2021.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 6:30PM Hybrid Event Kelsey Henry, Yale University Comment: Evelynn Hammonds, Harvard University This paper investigates “developmental asynchrony,” the mismatch between a sexually ...

This paper investigates “developmental asynchrony,” the mismatch between a sexually overdeveloped body and an underdeveloped mind, as a sign of racial degeneration fueled by sexual disorder in early child medicine. While developmental asynchrony was considered a hallmark characteristic of the Black race, similar developmental timing and patterning in white children inspired professional panic about developmental disorder and the dissolution of racial types. This paper proposes that medical theories of developmental normalcy and aberrancy are integral to telling stories about the co-constitution of race, gender, and sexuality and their conceptual and material entanglements in the antebellum U.S.

The History of Women, Gender, & Sexuality Seminar invites you to join this special session in the Disability and the American Past series. Seminars bring together a diverse group of scholars and interested members of the public to workshop a pre-circulated paper. Learn more

Please note, this is a hybrid event which may be attended either in person at the MHS or virtually on the video conference platform, Zoom. Registrants will receive a confirmation message with attendance information.

Register to attend in person Register to attend online

More
Disability and the American Past Disability and the History of Medicine 13 October 2021.Wednesday, 5:30PM - 6:30PM Online Event Dierdre Cooper Owens, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Jaipreet Virdi, University of Delaware; Michael Rembis, University at Buffalo Medicine and technology impact the lived experiences of disabled people in many ways. Advances ...

Medicine and technology impact the lived experiences of disabled people in many ways. Advances improve people’s lives, however many of these have come at the cost of invasive diagnostic technologies, the medicalization of human conditions, and endless quests for cures. Doctors have performed experiments on the poor and disempowered; especially enslaved Black and institutionalized people who had limited public voice. Writing medical history must include disabled people and use their experiences as analytical lenses for understanding historical events. Taking inspiration from the disability rights movement and the interdisciplinary field of disability studies, our discussion will delve into what has been written as traditional medical history and how we can tell a more complete story.

Please note, this is a virtual event held on the video conference platform, Zoom. Registrants will receive a confirmation message with attendance information.

More
Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/Seminars_2020-21/Her_Socialist_Smile.jpg Disability and the American Past Her Socialist Smile: a Film Screening 16 October 2021.Saturday, 1:00PM - 4:00PM Hybrid Event John Gianvito, Emerson College; Carolyn Forché, Georgetown University Moderator: Megan Marshall, Emerson College In his new film, John Gianvito, known for passion projects of expansive shape and political ambition ...

In his new film, John Gianvito, known for passion projects of expansive shape and political ambition, meditates on a particular moment in early 20th-century history: when Helen Keller began speaking out on behalf of progressive causes.  Beginning in 1913 when, at age 32, Keller gave her first public talk before a general audience, Her Socialist Smile is constructed of onscreen text taken from Keller’s speeches, impressionistic images of nature, and newly recorded voiceover by poet Carolyn Forché.  The film is a rousing reminder that Keller’s undaunted activism for labor rights, pacifism, and women’s suffrage was inseparable from her battles for the rights of the disabled. The film screening will be followed by a panel discussion and a reception.

The New England Biography Series invites you to join this special session in the Disability and the American Past series. Please note, the films screening will take place only at the MHS, but the panel discussion will be a  hybrid event which may be attended either in person or virtually on the video conference platform, Zoom. Registrants will receive an email with a link to join the program.

Register to attend in person Register to attend online (discussion only)

More
Disability and the American Past Disability in Early America 18 October 2021.Monday, 5:30PM - 6:30PM Online Event Sari Altschuler, Northeastern University; Nicole Belolan, Rutgers University; Laurel Daen, University of Notre Dame; moderated by Kanisorn Wongsrichanalai, MHS Our panel will explore how disability functioned in early America from personal, political, and ...

Our panel will explore how disability functioned in early America from personal, political, and cultural perspectives. What did disability mean in the early United States and how does it differ from our ideas about disability today? How did disability operate as a political and legal category in the colonial period, and how did it change in the early republic? What can material culture tell us about the lived experience of persons with disabilities in the era? This conversation will situate disability as a framework through which we can better understand the early lives of Americans and their often contested national and cultural identity.

Please note, this is a virtual event held on the video conference platform, Zoom. Registrants will receive a confirmation message with attendance information.

More
Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/Seminar_2019-2020/banner_draft_2.jpg Disability and the American Past Her Yet Unwritten History: Black Women and the Education of Students of Color with Disabilities in the New South 19 October 2021.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 6:30PM Online Event Jennifer Barclay, University at Buffalo Comment: David Connor, CUNY Historians have recognized the role of Black women educators in schools throughout the south, work ...

Historians have recognized the role of Black women educators in schools throughout the south, work associated today with well-known figures like Mary McLeod Bethune, Nannie Helen Burroughs, and Mary Church Terrell. Little has been written, however, about lesser known Black women educators like Susan Lowe, Amanda Johnson, and Effie Whitaker, who made essential contributions to the early education of children of color with disabilities in the south. This essay will consider the critical work of these women who represent just a handful of the many Black women who recognized the overlapping effects of racism and ableism in the lives of disabled students of color.

The African American History Seminar invites you to join this special session in the Disability and the American Past series. Seminars bring together a diverse group of scholars and interested members of the public to workshop a pre-circulated paperLearn more.

Please note, this is an exclusively online event. Registrants will receive a confirmation message with attendance information.

Register to attend online

More
Disability and the American Past Disability Activism: A Historical Perspective from some of the Leading Activists in Massachusetts 27 October 2021.Wednesday, 5:30PM - 6:30PM Online Event Heather Watkins, Charlie Carr, Keith Jones, John Chappell , Fred Pelka and moderator Malia Lazu The disabilities rights movement, like many rights movements, has been complex, coming from a ...

The disabilities rights movement, like many rights movements, has been complex, coming from a variety of different perspectives, but at its heart, it has been a movement for justice, equal opportunities and reasonable accommodations. Massachusetts has played a unique role in this struggle and this conversation will aim to introduce the story of disability activism in Massachusetts. Our panel includes current activists and historians of this movement. Through a moderated, roundtable discussion, our panelists will explore their experiences, their inspirations, the history of the movement and what they hope to see in the future of disability activism.

Please note, this is a virtual event held on the video conference platform, Zoom. Registrants will receive a confirmation message with attendance information.

More
Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/Seminar_2019-2020/masc_banner.jpg Disability and the American Past “The Virus of Slavery and Injustice”: Analogy and Disabled Life in African American Writings, 1856-1892 28 October 2021.Thursday, 5:15PM - 6:30PM Online Event Vivian Delchamps, University of California, Los Angeles Comment: Sari Altschuler, Northeastern University Engaging Todd Carmody’s invitation to consider how “race might have been &lsquo ...

Engaging Todd Carmody’s invitation to consider how “race might have been ‘like’ disability in the late nineteenth century,” this essay explores texts by African American authors Charlotte L. Forten, Martin Robison Delany, and Frances E.W. Harper. Harper’s novel Iola Leroy renders slavery a “virus,” “deadly cancer,” and “wound,” necessitating cure; simultaneously, the novel depicts lived realities of disability, disrupts diagnostic reading practices, and takes a care-based, rather than curative, approach to disability itself.  The essay thus reads literature as a generative site for asserting ableism’s centrality to the legacy of racial violence, and explores the value of using diagnostic-like narrative methods to target systemic sources of mass debilitation.

The Dina G. Malgeri Modern American Society & Culture Seminar invites you to join this special session in the Disability and the American Past series. Seminars bring together a diverse group of scholars and interested members of the public to workshop a pre-circulated paperLearn more.

Please note, this is an exclusively online event hosted on the video conference platform, Zoom. Registrants will receive a confirmation message with attendance information.

Register to attend online

More
Disability and the American Past An Introduction to Disability History Please RSVP   Register registration required at no cost 7 October 2021.Thursday, 5:30PM - 6:30PM Online Event Beth Linker, University of Pennsylvania; Kim E. Nielsen, University of Toledo; Rabia Belt, Stanford Law School; moderated by Naomi Rogers, Yale School of Medici Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/sgp-vol-27-p082-083_no-background_for_web.jpg

This conversation will aim to orient us in the field of disability history and serve to lay the groundwork for subsequent conversations in this series. How is disability used as an analytical tool in historical inquiry? Why is it important to center disability as a defining social category, like race, class, gender, and sexuality? How have definitions of disability varied through history, and what have been the social and cultural impacts of this shifting understanding? This conversation will present a brief history of the field and examine the foundational and emerging scholarship through a moderated, roundtable discussion with our panelists.

Please note, this is a virtual event held on the video conference platform, Zoom. Registrants will receive a confirmation message with attendance information.

close

Disability and the American Past “This milestone in their development as property”: Black Developmental Normalcy and White Developmental Disorder in Early Child Medicine, 1820 – 1865 U.S. 12 October 2021.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 6:30PM Hybrid Event Kelsey Henry, Yale University Comment: Evelynn Hammonds, Harvard University Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/Seminar_2019-2020/wgs_banner.jpg

This paper investigates “developmental asynchrony,” the mismatch between a sexually overdeveloped body and an underdeveloped mind, as a sign of racial degeneration fueled by sexual disorder in early child medicine. While developmental asynchrony was considered a hallmark characteristic of the Black race, similar developmental timing and patterning in white children inspired professional panic about developmental disorder and the dissolution of racial types. This paper proposes that medical theories of developmental normalcy and aberrancy are integral to telling stories about the co-constitution of race, gender, and sexuality and their conceptual and material entanglements in the antebellum U.S.

The History of Women, Gender, & Sexuality Seminar invites you to join this special session in the Disability and the American Past series. Seminars bring together a diverse group of scholars and interested members of the public to workshop a pre-circulated paper. Learn more

Please note, this is a hybrid event which may be attended either in person at the MHS or virtually on the video conference platform, Zoom. Registrants will receive a confirmation message with attendance information.

Register to attend in person Register to attend online

close

Disability and the American Past Disability and the History of Medicine Register registration required at no cost 13 October 2021.Wednesday, 5:30PM - 6:30PM Online Event Dierdre Cooper Owens, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Jaipreet Virdi, University of Delaware; Michael Rembis, University at Buffalo

Medicine and technology impact the lived experiences of disabled people in many ways. Advances improve people’s lives, however many of these have come at the cost of invasive diagnostic technologies, the medicalization of human conditions, and endless quests for cures. Doctors have performed experiments on the poor and disempowered; especially enslaved Black and institutionalized people who had limited public voice. Writing medical history must include disabled people and use their experiences as analytical lenses for understanding historical events. Taking inspiration from the disability rights movement and the interdisciplinary field of disability studies, our discussion will delve into what has been written as traditional medical history and how we can tell a more complete story.

Please note, this is a virtual event held on the video conference platform, Zoom. Registrants will receive a confirmation message with attendance information.

close

Disability and the American Past Her Socialist Smile: a Film Screening 16 October 2021.Saturday, 1:00PM - 4:00PM Hybrid Event John Gianvito, Emerson College; Carolyn Forché, Georgetown University Moderator: Megan Marshall, Emerson College Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/Seminars_2020-21/Her_Socialist_Smile.jpg

In his new film, John Gianvito, known for passion projects of expansive shape and political ambition, meditates on a particular moment in early 20th-century history: when Helen Keller began speaking out on behalf of progressive causes.  Beginning in 1913 when, at age 32, Keller gave her first public talk before a general audience, Her Socialist Smile is constructed of onscreen text taken from Keller’s speeches, impressionistic images of nature, and newly recorded voiceover by poet Carolyn Forché.  The film is a rousing reminder that Keller’s undaunted activism for labor rights, pacifism, and women’s suffrage was inseparable from her battles for the rights of the disabled. The film screening will be followed by a panel discussion and a reception.

The New England Biography Series invites you to join this special session in the Disability and the American Past series. Please note, the films screening will take place only at the MHS, but the panel discussion will be a  hybrid event which may be attended either in person or virtually on the video conference platform, Zoom. Registrants will receive an email with a link to join the program.

Register to attend in person Register to attend online (discussion only)

close

Disability and the American Past Disability in Early America Register registration required at no cost 18 October 2021.Monday, 5:30PM - 6:30PM Online Event Sari Altschuler, Northeastern University; Nicole Belolan, Rutgers University; Laurel Daen, University of Notre Dame; moderated by Kanisorn Wongsrichanalai, MHS

Our panel will explore how disability functioned in early America from personal, political, and cultural perspectives. What did disability mean in the early United States and how does it differ from our ideas about disability today? How did disability operate as a political and legal category in the colonial period, and how did it change in the early republic? What can material culture tell us about the lived experience of persons with disabilities in the era? This conversation will situate disability as a framework through which we can better understand the early lives of Americans and their often contested national and cultural identity.

Please note, this is a virtual event held on the video conference platform, Zoom. Registrants will receive a confirmation message with attendance information.

close

Disability and the American Past Her Yet Unwritten History: Black Women and the Education of Students of Color with Disabilities in the New South 19 October 2021.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 6:30PM Online Event Jennifer Barclay, University at Buffalo Comment: David Connor, CUNY Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/Seminar_2019-2020/banner_draft_2.jpg

Historians have recognized the role of Black women educators in schools throughout the south, work associated today with well-known figures like Mary McLeod Bethune, Nannie Helen Burroughs, and Mary Church Terrell. Little has been written, however, about lesser known Black women educators like Susan Lowe, Amanda Johnson, and Effie Whitaker, who made essential contributions to the early education of children of color with disabilities in the south. This essay will consider the critical work of these women who represent just a handful of the many Black women who recognized the overlapping effects of racism and ableism in the lives of disabled students of color.

The African American History Seminar invites you to join this special session in the Disability and the American Past series. Seminars bring together a diverse group of scholars and interested members of the public to workshop a pre-circulated paperLearn more.

Please note, this is an exclusively online event. Registrants will receive a confirmation message with attendance information.

Register to attend online

close

Disability and the American Past Disability Activism: A Historical Perspective from some of the Leading Activists in Massachusetts Register registration required at no cost 27 October 2021.Wednesday, 5:30PM - 6:30PM Online Event Heather Watkins, Charlie Carr, Keith Jones, John Chappell , Fred Pelka and moderator Malia Lazu

The disabilities rights movement, like many rights movements, has been complex, coming from a variety of different perspectives, but at its heart, it has been a movement for justice, equal opportunities and reasonable accommodations. Massachusetts has played a unique role in this struggle and this conversation will aim to introduce the story of disability activism in Massachusetts. Our panel includes current activists and historians of this movement. Through a moderated, roundtable discussion, our panelists will explore their experiences, their inspirations, the history of the movement and what they hope to see in the future of disability activism.

Please note, this is a virtual event held on the video conference platform, Zoom. Registrants will receive a confirmation message with attendance information.

close

Disability and the American Past “The Virus of Slavery and Injustice”: Analogy and Disabled Life in African American Writings, 1856-1892 28 October 2021.Thursday, 5:15PM - 6:30PM Online Event Vivian Delchamps, University of California, Los Angeles Comment: Sari Altschuler, Northeastern University Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/Seminar_2019-2020/masc_banner.jpg

Engaging Todd Carmody’s invitation to consider how “race might have been ‘like’ disability in the late nineteenth century,” this essay explores texts by African American authors Charlotte L. Forten, Martin Robison Delany, and Frances E.W. Harper. Harper’s novel Iola Leroy renders slavery a “virus,” “deadly cancer,” and “wound,” necessitating cure; simultaneously, the novel depicts lived realities of disability, disrupts diagnostic reading practices, and takes a care-based, rather than curative, approach to disability itself.  The essay thus reads literature as a generative site for asserting ableism’s centrality to the legacy of racial violence, and explores the value of using diagnostic-like narrative methods to target systemic sources of mass debilitation.

The Dina G. Malgeri Modern American Society & Culture Seminar invites you to join this special session in the Disability and the American Past series. Seminars bring together a diverse group of scholars and interested members of the public to workshop a pre-circulated paperLearn more.

Please note, this is an exclusively online event hosted on the video conference platform, Zoom. Registrants will receive a confirmation message with attendance information.

Register to attend online

close

Sponsors of the Disability and the American Past Series

American Antiquarian Society

Boston Center for Independent Living

Boston Public Library

The Disability History Museum

Emerging America

Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually impaired

National Council of Independent Living

National Council of Independent Living

National Disability Rights Network

The Arc of Massachusetts

UMass Amherst Libraries Special Collections and University Archives