NAU Professor Contributes to the History of the U.S. Disability Rights Movement
Associate Professor of History Linda Sargent Wood has been
investigating Montana’s care of people with cognitive disabilities in the last
half of the 20th century. Her project is part of the relatively new
and growing literature on the history of disabilities within American culture.
Central to Dr. Sargent Wood’s research is the work of Dr.
Philip Pallister of the Montana State Training School. Under his guidance, the
institution, which housed individuals born with a variety of mental and
physical disabilities, underwent radical transformations in its medical
practices. This led to dramatic decreases in tuberculosis, pneumonia, and
overall death rates. The school was also the site of genetics research and the
identification of serious genetic disorders.
“Pallister used his scientific knowledge, keen intellect,
and humanistic expertise to change more than the institution,” says Sargent Wood.
“For more than 50 years, Pallister educated families and politicians;
discovered and named genetic disorders; published articles in medical journals;
spoke at state, national, and international conferences; transformed popular conceptions
of people with disabilities; overturned state policies and laws; and worked
nationally with genetic specialists and disability associations.”
Sargent Wood will present a paper on Pallister and his
school at a conference on medical genetics at Montana State University. She is
also preparing a two-part article for Montana:
The Magazine of Western History. The first part will focus on the Montana
State Training School’s history; the second will feature Pallister’s
professional biography. Both articles
are the foundation of a larger, book-length work she is writing on Montana’s
contribution to genetics research, health care, and the disability rights