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Abigail Doran

MA work

Title of Dissertation: ‘Correcting’ Children: Disability and Design in Britain, 1900-1948

I came across an edition of Design Magazine from 1969 that intrigued me; the cover page was taken up with a black-and-white photograph of a physically impaired young girl strapped in to some sort of play device, with callipers attached to her legs and the tagline 'Aiding the disabled'.

I wanted to know what had led to this image being here, so I focused my research on the experience of disability for children from 1900 until the establishment of the NHS in 1948 and their marginalisation in society.

The language used in contemporary literature with regard to disabled children is nowadays considered offensive so why was it acceptable in the early twentieth century? Taking the body of the child as the focal point, my work explores disability and design in different contexts: medical, social and political.

Attitudes toward physically impaired children were tied up with notions of normality and attempts to correct and cure their bodies. The emphasis was placed on children because their bodies were constantly changing and therefore, were seen as mouldable. Whether by manipulation with the use of orthotic devices such as callipers, or the addition of prosthetics in order to create a complete body, the intention was to conceal these differences which were viewed negatively.

By separating these children from those considered normal and limiting their education to preconceived ideas of their potential 'usefulness' in society, the charitable institutions established to aid these children often further contributed to their social alienation.

Info

  • Abigail Doran profile image
  • MA Degree

    School

    School of Humanities

    Programme

    MA History of Design, 2013

  • Title of Dissertation: ‘Correcting’ Children: Disability and Design in Britain, 1900-1948

    I came across an edition of Design Magazine from 1969 that intrigued me; the cover page was taken up with a black-and-white photograph of a physically impaired young girl strapped in to some sort of play device, with callipers attached to her legs and the tagline 'Aiding the disabled'.

    I wanted to know what had led to this image being here, so I focused my research on the experience of disability for children from 1900 until the establishment of the NHS in 1948 and their marginalisation in society.

    The language used in contemporary literature with regard to disabled children is nowadays considered offensive so why was it acceptable in the early twentieth century? Taking the body of the child as the focal point, my work explores disability and design in different contexts: medical, social and political.

    Attitudes toward physically impaired children were tied up with notions of normality and attempts to correct and cure their bodies. The emphasis was placed on children because their bodies were constantly changing and therefore, were seen as mouldable. Whether by manipulation with the use of orthotic devices such as callipers, or the addition of prosthetics in order to create a complete body, the intention was to conceal these differences which were viewed negatively.

    By separating these children from those considered normal and limiting their education to preconceived ideas of their potential 'usefulness' in society, the charitable institutions established to aid these children often further contributed to their social alienation.

  • Degrees

  • BA (Hons), History, University of Sheffield, 2008–11
  • Experience

  • Podcast facilitator, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2013–present; Voluntary cataloguer, Clothworkers' Project, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2013–present; Voluntary research internship, History of Scottish Design Gallery, Victoria & Albert Museum at Dundee, London, 2013–present; Volunteer, Hogarth House, London, 2012
  • Exhibitions

  • Curator, Word Art Collective Exhibition, Arch 402, Hoxton, London, 2012; Researcher, The Brewer's Art, Hogarth House, London, 2012
  • Conferences

  • '"Correcting" Children: Disability and design in Britain, 1900-48', A Picture of Health, Wellcome/RCA, 2013