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Origin Of The Treatment And Training Of Idiots (1856)

The idiot wishes for nothing, he wishes only to remain in his vacuity. To treat successfully this ill will, the physician wills that the idiot should act, and think himself, of himself and finally by himself. The incessant volition of the moral physician urges incessantly the idiot out of his idiocy into the sphere of activity, of thinking, of labor, of duty and of affectionate feelings; such is the moral treatment. The negative will of the idiot being overcome, scope and encouragement being given to his first indications of active volition, the immoral tendencies of this new power being repressed, his mixing with the busy and living word is to be urged on at every opportunity. Continue Reading »

Women and Nineteenth-Century Reform

The problem for Dix and other women reformers of the nineteenth century was how to engage in social causes without losing their femininity. Opponents of women’s suffrage argued that political engagement would make women “mannish” and thereby undermine the social order. Even Catharine Beecher argued that women should not receive the right to vote because it would destroy their feminine virtues. Instead, Beecher believed that women could best exert their moral influence through their roles in the Christian home and neighborhood.Continue Reading »

Franklin Pierce’s Veto Is Challenged

William Seward was one of the most powerful statesmen of the 1850s. Under Abraham Lincoln, with whom he vied for the 1860 Republican Presidential nomination, he was Secretary of State. In 1854, as a Senator from New York, he was a supporter of the Dorthea Dix bill that passed both the House and Senate. Here he provided his rationale for opposing the veto message given by President Pierce. The effort to override the veto failed.Continue Reading »

Social Darwinism and the Poor

Extrapolations from Darwinism, with its emphasis on evolutionary progress, offered reason for hope that a new and better social order could emerge from the turbulence. At the same time, by highlighting competition and the survival of the fittest as the drivers of evolution, it seemed to explain both the emergence of the fittest — fabulously wealthy elites and giant corporations, as well as the unfit — the masses of poor in the teeming city slums.Continue Reading »

Alexander Graham Bell and His Role in Oral Education

Written by Brian H. Greenwald, Ph.D., Gallaudet University. “The promise of a more homogeneous society allowed oralism to emerge as the most attractive option to educate deaf people. Such strategies paralleled the general assimilation movement through the supposed uplifting of the deaf community by halting sign language use, reducing the importance of residential schools, and decreasing intermarriage among deaf partners.”Continue Reading »

Instruction Of Idiots (1849)

This article written by J. G. W. appeared in a Philadelphia Quaker periodical as efforts to educate children with cognitive disabilities first started in the United States.Continue Reading »

Education Of The Blind (1833)

“It has long been to us a matter of surprise that the blind have been so much neglected. Our age, compared with those that have passed away, is truly a humane one; never has more attention been paid to individual man than now; never has the imperative duty of society to provide for the wants of those whom nature or accident has thrown upon its charity, been more deeply felt, or more conscientiously discharged….”Continue Reading »

Moral Treatment of the Insane: 1847

That some cases of insanity require medical treatment we believe, but we also believe that a large majority of the patients in Lunatic Asylums do not. There is much analogy between many of the patients found in all such institutions, and the passionate, mischievous, and what are called bad boys in a school, and there is about as much propriety in following the example of Mrs. Squeers, and physicing and medicating the latter as the former, in order to cure them or to change their propensities. Rational hopes for the improvement of either, should we believe, be founded on moral management alone.Continue Reading »

Moral Treatment

Written by Dr. James W. Trent, Jr., Gordon College. “Moral treatment was a product of the Enlightenment of the late eighteenth century. Before then people with psychiatric conditions, referred to as the insane, were usually treated in inhumane and brutal ways.”Continue Reading »

Three Years In A Mad House (1851)

“Astounding Disclosures! Three Years In A Mad House,” by Isaac H. Hunt, 1851. Hunt, a former patient at the Maine Insane Hospital published a scathing attack on his treatment by the institution’s attendants and doctors. Isaac Hunt describes all sorts of abuses and mistreatment. His account makes people wonder whether or not the asylum offered conditions better than those uncovered in local almshouses and jails by the investigative reports of Dorothea Dix. Out of Hunt’s complaints came an investigation by the Maine Legislature into conditions at the asylum.Continue Reading »

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