October 31 (Week 11): Rehabilitating the Nation

This week, we will focus on the transatlantic emergence of rehabilitation programs aimed at “restoring” disabled veterans to breadwinner statuses in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  Rehabilitators, policymakers and, at times, disabled veterans borrowed from each others’ programs and advocacy efforts.

Please use the comment function to post two discussion questions about this week’s readings by Thursday at 2 pm.  Focus on intriguing or controversial points in the readings that you think will spark discussion.  Strong discussion questions are open-ended, engage with major points in author(s)’ arguments, and are not factual in nature.

Please also post one of the following:

  • a short description (1-3 sentences) of your “muddiest point,” that is, what important point of the author’s argument did you have trouble grasping
  • your “most interesting connection” for this week’s reading

If you refer to a specific point or quote in one of the readings, please provide the author and page number.


1)     Beth Linker, The War’s Waste: Rehabilitation in World War I America (University of Chicago Press, 2011)

2)     Jennifer Davis McDaid, “‘How a One-Legged Rebel Lives’: Confederate Veterans and Artificial Limbs in Virginia,” in Katherine Ott, David Serlin, and Stephen Mihm, eds., Artificial Parts, Practical Lives: Modern Histories of Prosthetics in America (NYU Press, 2002), pp. 119-143 (MavSpace)

3)     Choose one of the following:

    • Greg Eghigian, “The Regenerative Welfare State: Therapy, Work, and the Birth of Rehabilitation, 1884-1914,” in Making Security Social, Disability, Insurance, and the Birth of the Social Entitlement State in Germany (University of Michigan Press, 2000), pp. 117-158 (MavSpace)
    • Seth Koven, “Remembering and Dismemberment: Crippled Children, Wounded Soldiers, and the Great War in Britain,” American Historical Review 99, no. 4 (October 1994): 1167-1202 (MavSpace)
    • Joanna Bourke, “Effeminancy, Ethnicity, and the End of Trauma: The Sufferings of ‘Shell Shocked’ Men in Great Britain and Ireland, 1914-1939,” Journal of Contemporary History 35, no. 1 (2000): 57-69 (MavSpace)

      8 Responses to “October 31 (Week 11): Rehabilitating the Nation”

      1. Dalton Boyd says:

        Question 1: In Beth Linker’s War’s Waste, Linker discussed how the rehabilitation of disabled soldiers was developed after the vast mutilations these men suffered because of World War I. Linker connected this call to rehabilitate veterans, instead of simply paying them a pension, with the Progressive era reformers of the United States. So, why did these reformers want to rehabilitate these veterans instead of paying them their pension? Was it because these Progressive reformers feared that these veterans would become too much of a financial burden on society? Was it because these disabled veterans may hurt the ideal social norm of masculinity or did it come from a legitimate want to help these veterans live a better life? Also, why does there seem be less of a concern for veteran rehabilitation before World War I, such as how little historians seem to explore any form of rehabilitation for disabled veterans of the American Revolution? Did government officials believe that it was just easier to pay these pensions, that there was simply no technology to help these men, or was it because disabled veterans during this time were not seen as being a threat to the social perspective of masculinity?
        Question 2: In Joanna Bourke’s “Effeminacy, Ethnicity, and the End of Trauma,” Bourke talks about shell shock amongst soldiers from Great Britain and Ireland. Bourke states that the British argue that the Irish veterans were more prone to insanity than any of their other veterans. So why did the British military use these men if they were more prone to go insane after the war? Bourke also talked about how men were expected to adjust quickly to killing other men and to the other horrors of war. Does this quick adjustment to violence not constitute a loss in humanity and thus insanity? Also, why does there seem to be less discussion about men going insane with horrors of war before World War I, such as the veterans from the War of 1812? Is it just how historians of those times portrayed these men or could it be about the theory that with increased modernization there is an increased chance of men going insane because of the horrors of war?
        Most Interesting Connection: It is fascinating how artificial limbs were developed after the Civil War and became a lucrative business, which were known as Hanger limbs and this business is discussed in Jennifer Davis McDaid’s “How a One-legged Rebel Lives.” These Hanger limbs are shown to help veterans after the Civil War and were even used by World War I veterans. Thus, the subject of McDaid’s article shows how innovations in the Civil War carried over to helping veterans after World War I, which is shown in both McDaid’s article and Linker’s War’s Waste.

      2. Robert Caldwell says:

        1. Linker and Bouke consider costs of caring for veterans of expansive states while McDaid and Bourke both allude to disparities of care resulting from conflicts between the centralized state and its periphery (U.S. south and Eire). McDaid highlights the plight of former Confederate soldiers who relied on state pensions and services far more meager than those of regular soldiers fighting for the United States. Irish soldiers, as Bourke explains, were met with skepticism, derision, and were exempted from Army Council Instruction No. 8. Because Ireland was embroiled in the Cogadh na Saoirse (Irish Republican War for Independence, beginning in 1919), “local authorities refuse to recognize the (British) government” and the Irish asylums “lacked finance” they “strenuously avoided admitting any patients at all, let alone ex-servicemen (Bourke, 67). In both the U.S. south and Eire soldiers found themselves trapped between old and new regimes of power. Is that a function of being subaltern soldiers in/of an imperial periphery or more because the soldiers found themselves trapped between old systems, recently imposed martial law, and new/counter-hegemonic regimes of power? Or it is reducible to centralized states selectively embracing decentralization in a way to reduce costs?

        2. One of Bourke’s arguments is that some forms of shell shock (PTSD, war trauma) happened to those who were not engaged in physical battle. Modern trench warfare seemed random; modern soliders were “pitted against anonymous agents” and aggression was suppressed (59). “Restoring these men to ‘normality’ meant enabling them to accept—indeed embrace—their aggressive urges. If trauma is pronounced from those who lived with killing, but even more so on those disallowed to kill, what does this mean for warfare in the age of drones? (cf Kaag, http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/17/drones-ethics-and-the-armchair-soldier/?_r=0 or Medea Benjamin http://www.versobooks.com/books/1414-drone-warfare) One recent idea to help alleviate PTSD for drone pilots is to utilize a virtual personal assistant with a personality, a la Siri, to whom they can make an advance order to kill: http://io9.com/psychologists-propose-horrifying-solution-to-ptsd-in-dr-1453349900 It seems like Bourke’s historical investigation calls into question not only historical claims on shell shock but contemporary military psychologists’ notions. What else do the readings bring to contemporary policy concerns?

        Muddy point/ Connection(?) :
        1.) McDaid pens “A patient’s change of surviving one of the 60,000 Civil War amputations “depended in large part on the location of the wound; the closer to the body, the more likely the occurrence of severe blood loss and secondary infection” (121). Did she mean to say the closer the injury to the head and torso or organs? Aren’t legs and arms part of the body, or am I missing something?

        2.) In his introduction, Koven notes John Galsworthy’s conundrum in reconciling his hatred of war with duty to country. Bourke seems to suggest that war-related disabilities assigned to officers (who were assumed to be hyper-responsible role models with a sharp intellect) were more akin to “over-civilization,” while enlisted men were more often assumed to be malingering and unfit morally. assumed to be responsible and have a sharper intellect. Could that notion explain why certain officers could also be Quakers and Mennonites, and publicly espouse their pacifist preference or critical anti-war positions in times of relative peace, while still maintaining their gender role? I am thinking of figures like USMC Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler (War is a Racket), and Dwight D. Eisenhower (Military Industrial Complex speech), Dick Winters from Band of Brothers’ fame, etc. etc.

      3. Cory Wells says:

        All of the readings this week dealt with soldiers returning from war and their struggle to cope with either physical or psychological injuries. One thing that occurred to me upon reading McDaid’s piece on confederate veterans and Bourke’s on Ireland is that a lot of the discussion thus far has focused on the struggle to cope in an industrialized world, while there is an implicit argument (in my mind) that the disabled are more accepted in rural or agricultural settings. That is a gross overgeneralization on my part, but the previously mentioned articles seem to challenge that assertion, while at the same time not directly addressing it. In the McDaid’s work former confederates have difficulty returning to the rural south, although most of the examples presented are not specifically agricultural. Likewise, in Bourke’s article Irishmen return to their under-industrialized home and still face stigma because of the political circumstances. I thought both of these examples were interesting departures, in this respect, from what we have read so far.

        In War’s Waste, I found the gender aspects of rehabilitation most interesting, but especially the discussion of the place of massage in relation to accepted roles. Linker describes the tension between the use of massage as therapy for amputees and the sexual stigma attached to the practice. I would have been interested in a quick discussion of the historical context of this. Is it at this point that we see the division between professional and erotic massage, or was it already established?

        Connecting this week’s readings to a previous one, all three reminded me of the sample of ugly laws we read a few weeks ago. In class we discussed the possibility that the laws were possibly meant to keep disfigured soldiers out of the public eye, and the clear wide-spread movement to rehabilitate them only a few decades later in an attempt to avoid the same aftermath as the Civil War seems to buttress this argument. Not only did visible wounds disturb people on a basic level, they also challenged out ideas about societal structure and gender roles. Because they were not “self-sufficient,” let alone able to support families, they were also likely (in the minds of others) public charges.

      4. Matthew Speight says:

        1. The literature we have examined to this point and the popular understanding I have understood seem to define people by their ability. War’s Waste seems to present an exception. Soldiers with disabilities seem to find definition in their response to disability. Does Linker present a new direction for the identification of people with disabilities? Will other people with disabilities be able to gain the same privilege as soldiers and redefine themselves by their response to disability? Is this something I have missed in the literature?

        2. Linker mentions the Protestant work ethic in the introduction and it made me examine the historiography we have interacted with. While early on we dealt with religious views on disability and birth “defects,” it seems that we have not dealt with modern religious views on disability or even modern religious movements to show benevolence towards those with disability. Where do religion and altruistic endeavors fit into modern disability studies?


        This book and several others have left me wondering about motives. With the idea from Linker that avoiding pensions and the assimilation of deaf students into society, can we ever identify any attempt to assist people with disability as an altruistic endeavor? Is there always another motive?

      5. Jacob Jones says:

        This weeks readings concentrate mainly on state agencies and their role in rehabilitating wounded soldiers, but another theme is also prevalent. Disability in these selections, as in many previous ones, is seen in gendered terms. How does the idea of emasculation from war wounds compare with that of the railroad workers that we encountered in Williams-Searle? In some cases it seems distinctly familiar, such as the ability to withstand the psychological trauma of war being linked with masculinity in Bourke’s analysis.

        The Bourke article brings to focus one of the aspects of disability history that is less often a topic of concern: visible as opposed to invisible disability. War veterans returning early due to some type of disablement were not honored without the visible signs of war wounds. How does the distinction go into perceptions of disability? Are mental disabilities attributed the more heavily gendered idea of disability, as is seen in discourse on hysteria and neurasthenia?

        There is an aspect to the topic covered by McDaid that I feel warrants discussion or at least mentioned that is not covered. She states that the beginning of the assistance for disabled confederate war veterans was before the end of the war and describes several cases from that time until World War I. My concern is on the transition from Confederate handling of requests from disabled veterans to the triumphant Union. Were disabled rebels handled the same as their Northern brothers? Were they viewed or discussed in the same way? Were they seen as an essential part of the nation they fought to separate and given the same economic stimulus to re-enter productive society?

      6. Lydia Towns says:

        1. In War’s Waste, I find the overarching theme of shifting perspective to be very interesting. Linker clearly show how, over the course of the 20th century, the perspective of a veterans disability due to amputation changed from being a career ending disability to one that does not limit the person. Starting with a discussion of Civil War veterans, Linker shows that disabled war veterans at the beginning of the century were seen as being too disabled to work. This changed with the reform movements of World War I which focused on rehabilitation and finding ways for the veterans to make a living for themselves. Today, rehabilitation has progressed to the point that veterans suffering from an amputation are being told they can, if they want to, remain in uniform. I find this whole progression very interesting as the idea of rehabilitation took disabled veterans from being dependent on the state for a living to being able to continue on with their military careers. I wonder, if this perspective was applied to people within the general population who have suffered amputations, would they no longer be considered as being “other.” And what kind of ramifications would this shifting perspective have for how other people with disabilities are viewed within society?

        2. Linker’s discussion of the rehabilitation process for wounded veterans during WWI demonstrates an interesting shift in the role of women. The WRIA redefined disabled veterans as citizen-soldiers who were in the process of becoming a man. To facilitate this process, women were brought in. Women played an important role in the rehabilitation process as they oversaw physical therapy sessions. These women were not only responsible for aiding the disabled veteran in the healing process but were also responsible for helping the soldier “become” a man again. I find this intriguing as it seems to redefine women’s role as nurturer and mothering caregiver into a sterner figure, almost on the level of being masculine.

        Connection: In our readings over disabled workers, especially in Williams-Searle’s piece, we saw that workers disabled by a work injury were unable to continue with their old jobs, but were not offered any training to find a new job with which they could feed their families. I wonder, as the perspective of disabled veterans changed to allow them to maintain their masculinity and receive rehabilitation training to find new careers, did the situation for disabled workers change at all? Did the philosophy of rehabilitation for injured workers change to include vocational training as it did for veterans?

      7. Christopher Malmberg says:

        Seth Koven’s article “Remembering and Dismemberment: Crippled Children, Wounded Soldiers, and the Great War in Great Britain” has a lot going on in it that I found fascinating. For instance his idea that the disabled soldiers body was a “repository for the nations identity, its past, present, and future” (1188) made my head start swimming with ideas and questions; however, it seems to me that he should have said the REHABILITATED disabled soldiers body was…This is something I found myself wondering about throughout all the readings. It seems that WWI, in part, helps to create this hierarchy of disability where disabled war veterans are made into heroes and their dismembered bodies the embodiment of masculinity (if they successfully are rehabilitated). Where did this leave the disabled soldier that never achieved this rehabilitation ideal and where did it leave all other men and women who were disabled outside of war? I think the answer to this question reveals so much about ideas of gender in this period. Beth Linker’s book War’s Wasted works really well with Koven’s in regards to filling in information. Linker’s devotes a whole chapter to the use of Orthopedics by progressive reformers as the best place for rehabilitation and she mentions the transatlantic discussions regarding this but does not go into a great amount of detail about the connection between children and orthopedic hospitals and their later use by disabled soldiers. Koven’s article does a great job at filling that in. What I find most interesting is Linker’s discussion about the change in attitudes towards Civil War veterans. Like British WWI veterans they were initially valorized and their pensions happily given; however, this changed when the expense was believed to be too high. A Civil War veteran could no longer be respected and masculine if he lived off of the government. This led, according to Linker, to the Progressives demand for rehabilitation. Koven sees a similar thing happen in Great Britain, albeit later, but mentions that both the pension system and the rehabilitation system were used. I am wondering about how British soldiers benefiting from a pension were viewed? My guess is that they were emasculated and viewed as leeches, which furthers this idea that only the rehabilitated disabled soldier benefited from the creation of a “disability hierarchy”.

        Koven also discusses an agency created to match disabled soldiers with wives. In a response to criticism, Koven cites the opinion of the Eugenics Review “Let it at least be firmly understood by the noble women who choose to espouse these men that the injuries of war last but for one generation, and that their children will receive, as a natural dower, a constitution unimpaired, and the power to become all that their father might have been”. This is another quote that sent my head spinning with thoughts. In previous readings (I am thinking specifically of Daniel Bender’s “Perils of Degeneration”) we have found that in this same period Lamarckian eugenic ideas were being circulated. This quote by the Eugenics Review seems completely contrary to Lamarckian ideas about the inheritance of characteristics. Is this an example of eugenicists beginning to abandon Lamarckian ideas, or is it another example of this newly created disability hierarchy? Apart from this, I found it also interesting that a child of a disabled soldier will naturally be born with a “constitution unimpaired”, meaning that the fathers brave actions in war is somehow related to the birth of a perfect child. All these things seem contrary to the Eugenics Review and others in the eugenics movement claim to being “scientifically” based.

        Jennifer McDaid’s article “Confederate Veterans and Artificial Limbs in Virginia” discusses, in part, the creation of the artificial limb industry. I found it interesting that the majority of Civil War veterans were interested more in artificial limbs that would enable them to work and less in limbs that would hide their “dismembered” part. In Great Britain Koven seems to argue that disabled veterans were more concerned about hiding their injuries (quote on page 1195). I am wondering if their is a class element to this. For instance, could it be that a disabled officer (generally coming from the aristocracy) was more concerned about hiding the injury, whereas the “common man” would have preferred the creation of artificial limbs that would allow a full return to work?

      8. Michael Deliz says:

        1) Seth Koven, in “Remembering and Dismemberment,” explores the social and political discourse of crippled children and disabled soldiers to demonstrate that these became entangled in early twentieth-century Britain. In Beth Linker’s War’s Waste, the same connection is found both in the development of care as well as in the institutionalism employed. The contrast however, between children as the most deserving of “charity” and soldiers as those whose care was a social/state responsibility, can be complicated further with our previous readings on the development of worker’s compensation, wherein restitution, rehabilitation, and pensions are discussed with a corporate/union focus. These are three separate discourses that appear to be held compartmentalized in the minds of people at the turn of the century into the early twentieth. To what extent does this compartmentalization still persist, in the cultural meaning of disability among the general public? Also it serves to consider which comes to weigh heavier into the mental equation, the cultural tradition and meaning of disability that extends into the past of previous generations, or the established policies and extant politics of the subject (for example the continuing debates over the ACA and medicare expansion).

        Beth Linker, in War’s Waste, looks at the ideological evolution and policy developments that came to replace pensions with rehabilitation in the care of wounded veterans. In another link to Seth Koven’s work she raises briefly the attitude expressed by some anti-pensioners that the memory of the Civil War was maintained as a divisive thorn in the national psyche by the politics of the pension system. Where in Koven’s article the wounded veterans of WWI south to maintain the memory of the Great War fresh as a means of keeping their common plight alive and emotionally charged in the eyes of the public. This battle for public memory, has not surfaced so clearly in previous readings. I wonder If the historical study of memory can be applied in the same fashion to other aspects of disability history?

        Beth Linker addresses race, in a limited fashion but it is addressed particularly within the topic of the institutionalism of rehabilitation, whereas Koven does not approach it. Given the differing weights attributed to racial tensions in the social history of the US and Britain, to what extent should we expect a treatment of race from British disability history? Given that colonial troops such as the West Indies Regiment were often tasked with some of the most dangerous work within the British military can we expect their social treatment after the war to have been in any way similar to that of white British soldiers, or can we assume that race compounded the disability?

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