Becoming Citizens

Family Life and the Politics of Disability

Susan Schwartzenberg

  • $29.95 paperback (9780295985190) Add to Cart
  • hardcover not available
  • Published: 2005
  • Subject Listing: History / Wetsern; Health; Pacific Northwest / History
  • Bibliographic information: 136 pp., 8 x 11 in.
  • Published with: Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs, City of Seattle
  • Contents

Following the Second World War, a generation of Seattle parents went against conventional medical wisdom and chose to bring up their children with developmental disabilities in the community. This book presents a stunning visual narrative of thirteen of these remarkable families. With a rich array of interviews, photographs, newspaper clippings, official documents, and personal mementos, photographer Susan Schwartzenberg captures moving recollections of the struggle and perseverance of these parents. Becoming Citizens traces their dogged determination to make meaningful lives for their children in the face of an often hostile system.

Breaking the silence that characterizes the history of disability in the United States, Becoming Citizens is a substantive contribution to social and regional history. It demonstrates the ways in which personal experiences can galvanize communities for political action. The centerpiece of the book is the story of four mothers-turned-activists who coauthored Education for All, a crucial piece of Washington State legislation that was a precursor to the national law securing educational rights for every person with a disability in America.

Becoming Citizens is a deeply compassionate testament to the experience of family life and disability, as it is to the ways in which ordinary citizens become activists. It will be important to anyone interested in disability studies, including teachers, friends, and families of those with disabilities.
Susan Schwartzenberg is a photographer and visual artist whose work explores biography, memory, and urban life. She lives in San Francisco and holds a senior staff position at the Exploratorium.

"Using interviews with parents and photographs of ordinary family life, Susan Schwartzenberg chronicles the journeys of change agents. Becoming Citizen is a compelling examination of the role of parents in the disability rights movement."
-James W. Trent, Gordon College

"A valuable and well done book. The Seattle case study is particularly significant historically because the Washington State law became the model for the federal Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975."
-Paul K. Longmore, San Francisco State University

"In this must-read book, Schwartzenberg compellingly recounts and beautifully illustrates two journeys - that of the 'greatest generation' of parents and their children and that of a society reformed by their unstoppable commitment to justice."
-Rud and Ann Turnbull, University of Kansas, Lawrence

"Susan Schwartzenberg is evolving a new kind of mixed-media history, one in which narration supplements oral history and her own photographs augment those of the archive to make a historical narrative that is both deeply personal and resonantly public."
-Rebecca Solnit, San Francisco

Foreword by Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs, Seattle
Introduction by Susan Schwartzenberg
About Children
- The Nelsons
- The Dolans
- The Safioleses
- The Pyms
- The Werners
About Schools
- The Taggarts
- The Hiramatsus
- The Chapmans
- The Basses
Education for All
About Citizens
- Marie Strausbaugh
- Lance Peake
- Jeff McNary
- Sharon Gowdey
Afterword by Steve Eidelman

"This secret history of the lives and treatment of the developmentally disabled, as told by parents and siblings, is one of those marvelous books whose parts add up to something much greater than their sum. A book that transforms the intimacy of its individual stories into something of profound universal resonance."
-Publishers Weekly