by Sarah F. Rose

About Sarah F. Rose

Sarah F. Rose is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Texas at Arlington, where she directs the minor in Disability Studies. Her work has appeared in LABOR: Studies in the Working-Class History of the Americas and in the Journal of Policy History. She is completing a book manuscript entitled No Right to Be Idle: The Invention of Disability, 1850-1930.


“Nor has any man who is crippled a right to be idle,” thundered social worker George Mangold at an industrial accident conference in 1922 (67). While he inaccurately characterized most cripples as idle, Mangold nevertheless captured the long-standing role of work and productivity in defining “disability.” In many cultures, disability has been characterized as the inability to do productive labor, a charge that has limited the citizenship and social standing of people with disabilities. Sailors on slave ships tossed disabled captives overboard; after the Civil War, impoverished Americans with visible impairments found themselves barred from begging in public and, in some cases, banned altogether from streets. But disability has also long been central to working life—a phenomenon that underscores the profound importance of incorporating class and economic perspectives more broadly into disability studies.