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The Art of Crafting Useful Citizens: Disability, Charity and the State (1870-1970)

Trainor, Chloe Florence Emer (2021) The Art of Crafting Useful Citizens: Disability, Charity and the State (1870-1970). Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.93810) (KAR id:93810)


During the period 1870 to 1970 popular conceptions of disabled children and adults changed significantly, and the practices and policies established to understand, reform and manage the disruptive disabled body evolved accordingly. Beginning in 1870, when the introduction of compulsory schooling provided the impetus for the development of charitable schools for 'crippled' children, this thesis examines key pieces of educational and employment legislation directed towards disabled adults and children, as well as a number of charitable interventions, over a period of a hundred years. It analyses the shifting relationship between disabled people, charity and the state, and the role played by arts and crafts in different educational, therapeutic and occupational contexts, to consider how these worked to extend, or deny, the rights of citizenship to disabled people throughout this period.

It analyses practices associated with arts and crafts, as well as a number of case studies which include: Chailey Heritage Craft School for Crippled Children, The National Spastics Society and the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists Association. It uses these to chart the variable charitable, educational, political frameworks which have redefined, or reaffirmed, the expectations established for disabled children and adults, particularly in areas concerned with their education and employment. The study focuses principally upon disabled children to argue that the early institutions established on their behalf situated the 'crippled' child within the productive realm of adulthood through a work-based approach to education which affirmed their responsibility to be active, productive citizens. It demonstrates how this gradually changed through increased state intervention which progressively worked to redefine the boundaries of disabled children's childhoods and establish their dependency upon the state.

Key to these developments were the evolving attitudes and values assigned to disabled people, education and work. Whilst the adult cripple of the nineteenth century was understood to be work-shy, weak and physically unproductive, the working contributions of disabled citizens during the Second World War were acknowledged via the passage of The Disabled Persons (Employment) Act (1944) which affirmed their status as workers. Concurrently, educational policy gradually included more significantly impaired children, which meant educational practice, including arts and crafts, necessarily evolved to consider more holistically the individual needs and development of the disabled child. This thesis argues that this established a broader distinction between the disabled adult and the disabled child, and that this is evident in the educational and occupational expectations established for both following the Second World War.

Ultimately this thesis demonstrates how and why 'The Art of Crafting Useful Citizens' came to be an enterprise taken up both by charities and the state at different times, and in different ways. It argues that these approaches reflected the cultural anxieties and values of the time, and thus changed in meaning, form and intended recipient. The frameworks, practices and policies established by charities and the state successively worked to reexamine, recategorise and reform the disabled body, which this thesis argues worked to affirm the dependency of the disabled child, whilst simultaneously reasserting the expectations and rights of disabled adults to engage more completely in their own embodied citizenship through work.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Anderson, Julie
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.93810
Uncontrolled keywords: Disability history, history of arts and crafts, history of charities, history of childhood, history of special education, disabled children, history of the modern welfare state
Subjects: D History General and Old World
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of History
Funders: Organisations -1 not found.
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 01 Apr 2022 11:10 UTC
Last Modified: 01 Dec 2022 00:00 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Trainor, Chloe Florence Emer.

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