2018 Disability History Association Outstanding Book Award

Kathleen Brian's picture

The DHA board would like to congratulate Sarah F. Rose, winner of the 2018 DHA Outstanding Book Award for No Right to Be Idle: The Invention of Disability, 1840s-1930s (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2017).


No Right to Be Idle rose to the top of a highly competitive group of submissions. Committee members had the following praise for Rose’s work: 


It “is a much-needed examination of how ideas about bodily difference and productivity became linked during the nineteenth century, and an exploration of the contradictions inherent in the suggestion that disability meant an inability to perform labor – most importantly… in the ways that figures of authority called for the institutionalization of apparently unproductive disabled people, but at the same time reinvigorated economically-strapped institutions by giving them unlimited access to the unpaid labor of these ‘unproductive’ inmates. In this way, such unpaid labor stopped being work and became, instead, therapy.” 


No Right to Be Idle “ably tackles one of the big themes of disability -- its connection to the labor force -- and gives us a fundamental recalibration in how people with disabilities were labeled and pushed out of the labor force rather than having ex anteimpairments that made them ‘unfit’ laborers. It shows the malleability of the disability label within historical context.”


The 2018 Honorable Mention has been awarded to Molly Ladd-Taylor for Fixing the Poor: Eugenic Sterilization and Child Welfare in the Twentieth Century (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017). Committee members offered the following praise for Fixing the Poor: “This book clearly and powerfully argues for a reconceptualization of the history of American eugenics, one … focused on the practical needs and desires of impoverished, institutionalized people themselves.” It “ties eugenics to broader welfare state policies.” “Carefully researched and powerfully argued!”