No Right to Be Idle

The Invention of Disability, 1840s–1930s

By Sarah F. Rose

398 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 17 halftones, 11 graphs, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-2489-1
    Published: April 2017
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-3008-3
    Published: April 2017
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-2490-7
    Published: February 2017

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During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Americans with all sorts of disabilities came to be labeled as “unproductive citizens.” Before that, disabled people had contributed as they were able in homes, on farms, and in the wage labor market, reflecting the fact that Americans had long viewed productivity as a spectrum that varied by age, gender, and ability. But as Sarah F. Rose explains in No Right to Be Idle, a perfect storm of public policies, shifting family structures, and economic changes effectively barred workers with disabilities from mainstream workplaces and simultaneously cast disabled people as morally questionable dependents in need of permanent rehabilitation to achieve "self-care" and "self-support."

By tracing the experiences of policymakers, employers, reformers, and disabled people caught up in this epochal transition, Rose masterfully integrates disability history and labor history. She shows how people with disabilities lost access to paid work and the status of “worker”--a shift that relegated them and their families to poverty and second-class economic and social citizenship. This has vast consequences for debates about disability, work, poverty, and welfare in the century to come.

About the Author

Sarah F. Rose is associate professor of history and director of the Disability Studies Minor at the University of Texas at Arlington.
For more information about Sarah F. Rose, visit the Author Page.

Reviews

No Right to Be Idle is a pathbreaking work that rests on prodigious research and penetrating insights. Sarah Rose has produced the first fully historical and vastly important study we have on the social welfare origins of disability as a category for law, policy, and the organization of work.” --Eileen Boris, University of California, Santa Barbara

“Rich in historical context, rigorously researched, and powerfully argued, Sarah Rose's book is a superb social history of disability from the mid-nineteenth century to the 1930s. Through a series of exquisitely and painstakingly rendered case studies, No Right to Be Idle is an excellent illustration of the many complex relationships among disability, work, productivity, and citizenship.”--Michael Rembis, University at Buffalo