Historian explores intersection of gender and disability at ESFL

Writing some months ago about the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act raised my awareness – and a host of related questions. (https://www.minnpost.com/minnesota-blog-cabin/2015/04/celebrating-impact-ada-embracing-challenges-remain) Monumental federal legislation such as ADA comes with history. It was my quest to trace the history of ADA that led me to the first significant comprehensive study of the history of disability in the US, published in 2013 Kim E. Nielsen, Alexandria, Minnesota native – and 1988 Macalaster graduate.(http://www.beacon.org/A-Disability-History-of-the-United-States-P836.aspx)

Nielsen’s monumental work covers the history of disability in the U.S. from 1492 to the 21st Century. One reviewer of the historical study wrote:

A Disability History of the United States is the first book to place the experiences of people with disabilities at the center of the American narrative. In many ways, it’s a familiar telling. In other ways, however, it is a radical repositioning of US history. By doing so, the book casts new light on familiar stories, such as slavery and immigration, while breaking ground about the ties between nativism and oralism in the late nineteenth century and the role of ableism in the development of democracy.

Clearly, it was the source I had sought to learn about the foundations of the movement that shared ADA.

Nielsen, now on the Disabilities Studies faculty at the University of Toledo, has focused further research on the lives of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan Macy. Her publications include The Radical Lives of Helen Keller, Helen Keller: Selected Writings, and Beyond the Miracle Worker: The Remarkable Life of Anne Sullivan Macy and Her Extraordinary Friendship with Helen Keller.

It is a joy to learn now that Kim Nielsen will be back in her home state next week. Nielsen will be sharing the results of her extensive research and her thoughts on Wednesday, April 27, 7:00 p.m. at the East Side Freedom Library, 1105 Greenbrier Street, on St. Paul’s East Side. Her presentation at ESFL grows out of her research on the intersection of gender and disability history in the 19th Century.

For more information about the event contact ESFL at 651 774 8687 or info@eastsidefreedomlibraray.org. ESFL is on the site of the former Arlington Hills Branch of the St. Paul Public Library — There’s a map on the home page

The event is free and open to the public.  For more information about ESFL check this earlier blog post: (https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2015/07/28/east-side-freedom-library-gives-new-life-to-carnegie-library-st-paul-neighborhood)


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