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The expressions "idiot, you idiot, you're an idiot, don't be an idiot," and the like are generally interpreted as momentary insults. But, they are also expressions that represent an old, if unstable, history. Beginning with an examination of the early nineteenth century labeling of mental retardation as "idiocy," to what we call developmental, intellectual, or learning disabilities, Mental Retardation in America chronicles the history of mental retardation, its treatment and labeling, and its representations and ramifications within the changing economic, social, and political context of America.
Mental Retardation in America includes essays with a wide range of authors who approach the problems of retardation from many differing points of view. This work is divided into five sections, each following in chronological order the major changes in the treatment of people classified as retarded. Exploring historical issues, as well as current public policy concerns, Mental Retardation in America covers topics ranging from representations of the mentally disabled as social burdens and social menaces; Freudian inspired ideas of adjustment and adaptation; the relationship between community care and institutional treatment; historical events, such as the Buck v. Bell decision, which upheld the opinion on eugenic sterilization; the evolution of the disability rights movement; and the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990.
"This is a highly readable and well-edited historical anthology, a wide-ranging collection that deals with mental retardation over two centuries. The book deserves perusal by anyone interested in mental retardation. The plot is powerful, and the questions profound."
-New England Journal of Medicine,
"Interesting collection of pieces."
"Illuminates the history of mental retardation in America, a subject that has largely been ignored by scholars. This volume goes far beyond the history of institutional care, and covers such subjects as the role of families, changes in concepts of retardation and educational theory, and the role of the state. Mental Retardation in America will contribute toward a new understanding of the subject and serve as a stimulus to further research."
-Gerald N. Grob,Rutgers University
"The book will be of value to scholars concerned with the newly emerging history of disability."
-Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences,
|Pt. I||Before the Asylum|
|A Selection from Report Made to the Legislature of Massachusetts (1848)||23|
|A Thesis on Idiocy||27|
|1||The Legacy of the Almshouse||40|
|2||"Beside Her Sat Her Idiot Child": Families and Developmental Disability in Mid-Nineteenth-Century America||65|
|Pt. II||Defining and Categorizing: Establishing "The Other"|
|Report of Committee on Classification of Feeble-Minded||87|
|The New Classification (Tentative) of the Feeble-Minded: Editorial||89|
|3||Mongols in Our Midst: John Langdon Down and the Ethnic Classification of Idiocy, 1858-1924||92|
|4||"Mongolian Imbecility": Race and Its Rejection in the Understanding of a Mental Disease||120|
|5||Rearing the Child Who Never Grew: Ideologies of Parenting and Intellectual Disability in American History||130|
|6||The Parable of The Kallikak Family: Explaining the Meaning of Heredity in 1912||165|
|7||Fictional Voices and Viewpoints for the Mentally Deficient, 1929-1939||186|
|8||Sexuality and Storytelling: Literary Representations of the "Feebleminded" in the Age of Sterilization||207|
|Pt. III||The Age of Institutionalization and Sterilization|
|The Eugenical Sterilization of the Feeble-Minded||225|
|9||The Criminalization of Mental Retardation||232|
|10||The State and the Multiply Disadvantaged: The Case of Epilesy||258|
|11||The "Sociological Advantages" of Sterilization: Fiscal Policies and Feeble-Minded Women in Interwar Minnesota||281|
|Pt. IV||From Top and Bottom: Parents and the State in the Mid-Twentieth Century|
|Hope for Retarded Children||303|
|12||"Mental Deficients" Fighting Fascism: The Unplanned Normalization of World War II||308|
|13||Education for Children with Mental Retardation: Parent Activism, Public Policy, and Family Ideology in the 1950s||322|
|14||"Nice, Average Americans": Postwar Parents' Groups and the Defense of the Normal Family||351|
|15||Formal Health Care at the Community Level: The Child Development Clinics of the 1950s and 1960s||371|
|16||A Pivotal Place in Special Education Policy: The First Arkansas Children's Colony||384|
|Pt. V||The Promise and Problems of Community Placement: Back to a Beginning?|
|U.S. Supreme Court Decision on Capital Punishment and Mental Retardation (2002)||413|
|17||Historical Social Geography||420|
|18||The Litigator as Reformer||445|
|19||No Profits, Just a Pittance: Work, Compensation, and People Defined as Mentally Disabled in Ontario, 1964-1990||466|
|About the Contributors||501|