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The Care, Cure, And Education Of The Crippled Child

Creator: Henry Edward Abt (author)
Date: 1924
Publisher: International Society for Crippled Children
Source: Available at selected libraries
Figures From This Artifact: Figure 1  Figure 2  Figure 3  Figure 4  Figure 5  Figure 6  Figure 7

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-2- Formulated by the Education Committee of Birmingham, England, whose subcommittee of inquiry took a complete census of cripples in Birmingham, 1911. Accepted by most organizations as a standard definition.


Dr. Horwitz, assistant professor in the Orthopedic Surgery Department of St. Louis University, in an article entitled The Cripple's Place in Society Through the Ages, published in The Nation's Health of August, 1923, called attention to the fact that the word "cripple" is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word "creep." The word "dwarf," he points out, is closely akin to the Sanskrit word "dhvaras" meaning "evil one incarnate." The psychology behind this evolution of diction is obvious. The doctor lists four causes for the traditional dislike of the physically handicapped:


1. A dislike of the imperfect, as among the Hebrews.


2. The knowledge that the cripple would be a burden upon the community, and be a poor soldier.


3. The thought that an imperfect body necessarily harbors an imperfect mind.


4. The fear of an evil spirit.


Convinced that the cripple embodied an evil spirit, of ill omen to the community; that he would never be an asset to their armies; and that he was apt to become a social burden, our fore-fathers ostracized him, sacrificed him to their Gods, or abandoned him in his infancy. We note the following passage among the laws governing the Levite priests, an early record of the fear and ostracism with which cripples were confronted among the Hebrews; "Whosoever he be in their generations that hath any blemish, let him not approach to offer the bread of his God. For whosoever man he be that hath a blemish, he shall not approach: a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath a flat nose, or any thing superfluous, or a man that is brokenfooted or brokenhanded or crookbackt, or a dwarf, or hath a blemish in his eye, or be scurvy, or scabbed,. . .he shall eat of the bread of his God. . .Only he shall not go in unto the vail, nor come nigh unto the altar, because he has a blemish."-1-


-1- Leviticus, XXI, 17-23.


The Spartans exposed their unfortunate children in infancy. Roman law allowed the paterfamilias to destroy his children, but did not require any uniform procedure. The Romans made the first recorded provision to care for cripples. Pope Gregory, in 590 A. D., included them in his classification of infirm and destitute to be supported by public funds.-2-


-2- H. Hare. A Study of Handicapped Children, p.5. (Ind. Univ. Studies.) Also H. K. Mann. The Lives of the Popes in the Early Middle Ages. Vol. I, (590 A. D.-657 A. D.), pp.194-195.


During the Middle Ages, two famous men who overcame their disabilities were "Hermann, the Cripple," a German who died in 1054, and a French poet, Paul Scarron, who died in 1660. The first of these was entirely paralyzed, and found it almost impossible to speak. His greatest achievement was the production of a history of the German people during the tenth and eleventh centuries, entitled A Chronicle of the Six Ages of the World.-3-


-3- Children's Hospital Journal, Huntington, W. Va., Nov., 1923, p.4.


As a rule, however, medieval cripples, and particularly crippled children, were cruelly exploited for purposes of amusement. The contemporary lack of a sense of social responsibility toward the handicapped has resulted in the survival of very little literature specifically demonstrating this situation, but much has come down to us in the fiction and drama. The courts of Europe were constantly entertained by deformed jesters and fools, and, in Italy, Roman beggars made slaves of crippled children to exhibit their deformities on the public roadways and gain the sympathies of pedestrians. Frequently these men would actually maim children, or increase their infirmity, that the appeal to sympathy might be more effective, and the profits resultantly greater.-4-


-4- H. Hare. A Study of Handicapped Children, p. 6.


Among the famous cripples of literature, the Hunchback of Notre Dame is a well known figure. According to Victor Hugo, the Hunchback was found by the Bishop of Notre Dame in the square outside of Notre Dame Cathedral in the year 1466, the child being then four years old. "Upon this bed it was customary to expose foundlings of public charity."-1- The author quotes the conversation of those who observed the deformed baby.-2-


-1- Victor Hugo. Notre Dame de Paris, 1831. Translated by A. Alger, 1888, p. 217.


-2- Victor Hugo. Ibid, pp. 213-14.


"It sees with but one eye; there is a wart over the other."


"What do you predict from this pretended foundling?"


"I think it would be better for the people of Paris if this sorcerer were laid on a fagot."


"A fine flaming fagot."


In Verdi's Rigoletto, the scene of which is Mantua, in the sixteenth century, we have a picture of the typical deformed court jester, the tool of his master, and the object of public jest. -3- Although orthopedic surgery did not always exist, in every age there have been healers who have effected cures with neurotic individuals through the exertion of psychological influence. Montaigne, in an essay entitled Cripples, mentions "a certain priest, who by words and gestures cured all sorts of diseases." He continues: "Riding the other day through a village about two leagues from my house, I found the place yet hot with the rumor of a miracle lately wrought there." -4-

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