Special Collections puts spotlight on disability studies and advocacy

Special Collections Spotlight's latest offering showcases collections from the Walter E. Fernald Developmental Center's Samuel Gridley Howe Library. These collections document the field of disability studies and the history of advocacy from the early 1800s to the recent past.

The collections include several hundred books by scholars and experts in the fields of science, medicine, and disabilities; the papers of Irving Kenneth Zola and of Rosemary and Gunnar Dybwad; and thousands of pamphlets, case studies, and journals on topics ranging from what were then called feeble-mindedness and cretinism to eugenics and crime.

The pamphlet collection, which dates from the 1810s to the 1950s, includes works from world-renowned doctors such as psychologists Alfred Binet and Edgar A. Doll, polymaths Francis Galton and his protégé Karl Pearson; Walter E. Fernald; Dorothea Dix, who championed for the rights of the indigent insane; Ellis Island medical officer Howard Knox; eugenicists Charles B. Davenport and Henry H. Goddard and hundreds of others.

The Howe Library collection also includes material on the President's Committee on Mental Retardation, a vast amount of international literature on disabilities collected by Gunnar and Rosemary Dybwad, subject files on all number of relevant topics amassed by both Dybwad and Zola, material on self-advocacy, awards and photographs and a collection of historical books on related subjects, many of which have been digitized and are available on the Internet Archive.

Gunnar Dybwad was an early and prominent advocate for people with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities. A leading authority on retardation, autism, cerebral palsy and other disabilities, he was professor of human development and founding director of the Starr Center for Mental Retardation at Brandeis's Heller School for Social Policy and Management. Rosemary Dybwad, his wife, was senior research associate at the Heller School and a leading advocate for people with developmental disabilities and their parents.

Categories: Humanities and Social Sciences, Research

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