2007 Student Research Conference:
20th Annual Student Research Conference

Social Science

FDR’s Disability: How Biographies Have Reflected Changing Cultural Attitudes Toward Disability
Heather L. Armstrong
Dr. Jerrold Hirsch, Faculty Mentor

In the study of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s paralysis and partial recovery, there are three primary differences which occur over time between historians’ treatment of that period from ten years to about forty years after the president’s death. Historians have placed a differing level of importance on FDR’s disability over the last five decades, which is reflected in how they organized their information; writing more or less about it in their biographies and analyses and depicting paralysis as an isolated event versus an ongoing struggle. Furthermore, they have polio’s positive and negative effects on FDR as a person and on his political career differently. Finally, as biographies began emphasizing paralysis, historians considered new sources of information. Historians’ transforming views on FDR’s disability mirrored a cultural trend of growing disability awareness in the U.S., the pivotal points being a disability rights movement in the 1970’s and the development of a disabilities history.

Keywords: history changes, disability rights, disabilities history

Topic(s):History

Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 14-3
Location: VH 1320
Time: 8:45 am

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