How'd You Like to be a Giant?
For one hundred years (1840 - 1940) the freak show was one of America's
most popular forms of entertainment. Today the same shows would be considered
unacceptable and cruel, or as one disability rights activist put it, "the
pornography of disability." In the mid 19th century, however, Americans
were beginning to move from the farms and a family-based society to one
which relied more on organizations, including institutionalized entertainment.
It was at this time that P.T. Barnum brought the freak show to prominence
through the American Museum in New York City.
Buttons, stamps, postcards, and "first-day" envelopes were
often used in campaigns to promote awareness and raise money for various
causes for the "handicapped." Some campaigns were for prevention,
some for treatment, and some for social programs (i.e., employment). Often
the material was intended to invoke pity (for example, a picture of a
child using crutches with the caption "Remember Me"), and there
was a heavy emphasis on cure.
The 1930's were a time of great social unrest and increasing militancy
among what one historian has termed "the impatient armies of the
poor" (Folsom, 1991). On March 6, 1930 hundreds of thousands of the
unemployed marched through the streets America's largest cities. The Unemployment
Councils, a largely decentralized movement, came into existence in the
summer of 1930. (more)
Hitler's extermination policies began with the widespread killing of
institutionalized disabled people in Germany in the 1940s. The eugenics
theories that were the basis for Hitler's policies originated in the United
States in the 1920s.
The First International Symposium on Issues of Women with Disabilities
was held on August 29, 1995 in conjunction with the United Nation's Fourth
World Conference on the Status of Women from September 5 - 15, 1995 in