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Leanna Duncan Video Transcript and Image Description

Transcript and Image Descriptions

Image 1: Title: Three Sources: A Reverse Chronology of the Crippled Child.

V/O: Hi, my name is Leanna Duncan and I’m a PhD candidate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, studying the history of children with disabilities in the early to mid-20th c US. My research looks particularly at how experiences of crippled childhood informed the movement for crippled children, for their care, for their education, and for their political activism, in the early to mid-20th c US. And so, I wanted to talk through a little bit of how I came to arrive at this topic. I’m going to look at a few sources that influenced me on my way there, and as you’ll note, this is a reverse chronology, so I didn’t come at these sources knowing that they would all be part of this story. In fact, I found a late source, and I worked my way backwards to realize that the story started earlier than I would have imagined.

Image 2: Front Cover of The Echo, featuring a Christmas scene, and the second page of the magazine with the staff list and several brief items.

V/O: When I first began thinking about what I wanted my project to be, I wasn’t quite sure what direction I would take. I knew that I wanted to look at the history of disability, but beyond that I was unsure. I decided to visit disability history collections to determine what sources there were out there for me to focus on. While doing that, I came upon a really exciting source. This is an issue of The Echo from December 1937. It’s the only issue I’ve been able to find—it says it’s the second, but I haven’t been able to find the first and I don’t know whether there were any more published after that. The unique and exciting thing about this issue of The Echo is that The Echo was a periodical published by children at the Toledo Home for Crippled Children, So the staff-- the list of names you see there on the right—is made up entirely of children with disabilities who are living at this home in Toledo, other than their advisor Miss Friend. This magazine is exciting because it not only shows an activity for kids—making this magazine—but it also showcases how they encouraged one another and it shows their enthusiasm for the activities they did at this home. You can see that they report on the handicraft work some of the children are doing, that they talk about the nurses and what they’re up to. In other pages of the issue, there are reports on who is doing well in physical therapy, as well as a poem encouraging readers to believe in their doctor’s ability to make them well. So I became really interested in looking for more patient-published magazines like this, and my project began taking children as a serious, central part of the project.

Image 3: The masthead of The Crippled Child magazine from July-August 1926, which features a girl and a boy using crutches at either end, and the title of the Smiles column from that issue.

V/O: This search led me in some surprising directions, including with The Crippled Child magazine, which was the organ of the International Society for Crippled Children. This issue is from 1926, and as you can see, it was edited by Joe Sullivan. As Brad Byrom has written, Sullivan was a prolific disabled writer and teacher at the Michigan Hospital School. This magazine surprised me because of its continual voice of experience from people who had experience being a crippled child. This is not only true of Sullivan, who wrote quite a bit for the magazine as well as selecting and editing the articles. It goes beyond, too, the adults who wrote from a position of disabled experience such as Reinette Lovewell, who wrote pieces calling for things like hand railings on front steps to make them more accessible to disabled members of the community. There was also this section called Smiles that you can see at the bottom right. These were child-authored letters and pieces which were designed to be shared in a round-robin sort of style between different institutions associated with the International Society. So children from day schools, children from hospitals, children from convalescent homes and other institutions targeting crippled children would have a member of their patient population who was the appointed secretary for doing that. They would write the letter giving all the news form their home, send it off to the round robin, and they were primarily designed to communicate with one another among the chidlren, but they also were aware, it seems in most cases, that they might be published in the Smiles column. So this gave me great access to the different ways that these thoughts were being expressed.

I thought that this really represented the core of the movement, when I found this magazine, and the beginning of the movement—that the International Society’s beginnings were the beginnings of attention to the crippled child. However, I realized I was definitely wrong when I went to the University of Michigan.

Image 4: An image of Blanche Van Leuven Browne as a teenager in a hospital bed, circa 1896, with two nurses and three other patients surrounding her.

When I visited the University of Michigan, I thought that I had much of my research completed. I was looking for several things that could change my findings, but overall I felt pretty confident that I knew where I was going. This all changed when I found the Blanche Van Leuven Browne papers to be much different than I had expected. I had thought that perhaps these papers would offer me some insight into what would eventually become the Michigan Hospital School. You'll remember I said that Joe F. Sullivan was a teacher and a leader at the Michigan Hospital School. Before it was the Michigan Hospital School, it was called the Blanche Van Leuven Browne home. I thought that I might find some recollections of children, perhaps some kind of periodical similar to The Echo, scattered among Browne's papers. Instead I found something far more important. I found that Blanche Van Leuven Browne was herself a polio survivor, who had been in a hospital for many years of her childhood and adolescent life--you can see her on the bed in this photo-- and she had been inspired by these experiences at St. Luke's Hospital in Chicago to start her own home, She even related her idea to do this from bed at the hospital when she was a teenager to her doctor. She said she planned on giving crippled children the kind of treatment no one else could give them, because no one else could understand what they had been through like she could. Obviously, she was relatively successful in this endeavor, running a self-titled institution for almost ten years, and during that time articulated many ideas about crippled children that seemed very familiar from my looks at The Crippled Child magazine: who they were, which was separate from feebleminded children, which was children that needed a little bit of extra education to make their way in the world. She also had ideas about what sort of treatment was suitable for them--she trended farther and farther towards anti-surgical as she went along; this diverged from later parts of the movement pretty significantly. And that their voices were critical both to the work of caring for crippled children and promoting the interests of crippled children and to the good of the wider world. So, she was very invested in making sure that the children she cared for knew how to express themselves, and also expressing that she was uniquely qualified to do the work she did because of her experience as a crippled child when she was growing up.

Image 5: The title page and facing image of the second edition of A Story of the Children’s Ward. The image shows Browne with her adopted daughter leaning on her knee.

Moreover, Browne used her childhood experiences to write a novel, designed to raise money for the home she wanted to open. I found the picture from the last slide tucked inside this book, A Story of the Children's Ward. A Story of the Children's Ward was based heavily on her childhood experiences in the hospital. It came out in 1906 and she released a second edition, this one, in 1911. As you can see, by this time she had adopted a daughter. Already known as Mother Blanche for taking care of all the children in the home, she would go on to adopt nine more children by the time she left Detroit after a dispute with the institution's board. Despite the fact that after this dispute her name was cast aside and her influence really not emphasized any more in the legacy of the movement, her ideas continued to heavily inform the later movement for crippled children-- her ideas about what constituted a crippled child, what kind of care they needed, and who was qualified to speak for them remained significant aspects of the movement—and occasionally, in disputes among members of the movement.

Image 6: Title and sources.

For the dissertation I’m writing, all of this will appear in a more traditional order, with first things first and last things last. But this is a pretty good approximation of how the project came to be. Thanks to SHCY for the opportunity to share my journey, to the archives for making these fantastic sources available, and to you, for watching and listening.



Byrom, Brad. “A Pupil and a Patient: Hospital-Schools in Progressive America.” In The New Disability History: American Perspectives, edited by Paul K. Longmore and Lauri Umansky, 133–56. New York: New York University Press, 2001.

Byrom, Brad. “Joseph F. Sullivan and the Discourse of ‘Crippledom’ in Progressive America.” In Disability Discourse, edited by Mairian Corker and Sally French, 157–63. Philadelphia, PA: Open University Press, 1999.

Lovewell, Reinette. “Have You Hand Railings on Your Front Steps?” The Crippled Child 2, no. 2 (July-August 1924): 6. 


The Echo, no. 2 (December 1937). Box 4, Folder 22. Ability Center of Toledo Records, MSS-190. Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections, University of Toledo Libraries, Toledo, OH. 

The Crippled Child 3, no. 6 (March-April 1926): 1, 3. National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, MD.

Blanche Van Leuven Browne Papers, 2017039 Aa 2. Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan.