Posted on 27th July 2020 at 15:34
Lets take a look in our Yearbooks!
Cerebral Palsy Midlands (CPM) archives hold a selection of Yearbooks. This type of publication was a common feature of many parent-led associations established in the middle of the twentieth century.
What do Yearbooks reveal?
Their main aims were to highlight association activities and raise awareness of the effects of cerebral palsy on individuals. With the passing of time they have become a valuable historical resource, giving an insight into the development of the association as we can see ‘how things used to be’.
Articles contributed do not confine themselves solely to the year in which they were published and this widens our perspective. Through a close study of Yearbooks, we can reflect on social change and attitudes to cerebral palsy.
The publication dates of the Yearbooks I have examined broadly cover the period from 1972 to 1998.
This blog post features two articles from the 1972 Yearbook. I have chosen these to demonstrate, from a research point of view, how the publication provides a foundation from which research topics can be identified and developed.
1972 was the Silver Jubilee year for Midland Spastic Association (MSA), as it was then known. The letter from the Chairman, W.H. Hobbins, discusses how the association had grown during its first twenty-five years.
This extract provides evidence not only of financial investment but also of the investment of time and energy, out of which a supportive community grew. For the historian, it also prompts questions. £50,000 was not an insignificant amount of money in 1972. How did MSA achieve this? What were the range of services delivered by the Welfare Centre? A ‘wide variety of occupations’ are referred to but not detailed, so can we discover what these were. Similarly, Clubs are mentioned but it is not immediately obvious what their purpose was. In historical terms, this small paragraph offers up opportunities for detailed research into a variety of topics. The references made are obviously of importance in the association’s history as reflected in the words of the Chairman:
the many achievements, of which we are all justly proud, have only been made possible by the never-ending devotion, goodwill and constant effort of a large number of individuals; so large that one could not hope to begin to count them, or list the various ways in which they have helped – but to each one, a great debt of gratitude is owed.
A personal recollection
A personal recollection by parent Roy Hull reminds us of the reality of a situation that many families had to face during the mid-twentieth century. Many children with cerebral palsy were deemed to be ‘ineducable’ and this concept may prove difficult to fully appreciate in a modern context. However, an extract from ‘A Parent’s Experiences in the Early Days’, gives us an insight into how such discrimination impacted on individuals and their families.
The extract describes how Roy’s son, John, had been excluded from school and the likelihood of him gaining access to education was remote.
Roy Hull's Memories
Roy’s memories help us gain a sense of the situation and can aid our understanding of the motives behind the creation of organisations, such as MSA. As Roy said:
we set up groups in various parts of the city, meeting wherever we could – in our own homes, in church halls, in schools and so on to help each other by talking over our problems. This was a tremendously liberating experience for many of us and for many of our children who until then had been housebound. Many parents felt embarrassed and even angry at the curiosity shown by passers-by at the contortions and grimaces of our children and we realised the need to educate the general public to recognise spastics and accept them in society. This we did by addressing meetings and by arranging outings to public places.
This descriptive text is moving, but it also conveys a sense of excitement as families began to actively confront discrimination and challenge a society which had excluded them.
There are several more articles to be discovered in this Yearbook and for information I have detailed the titles below.
The MSA Action Group
Pioneer Play Centre
Sir No.1 looks back
Sir No. 3 takes stock
An older spastic – then and now
A younger spastic – then and now
The sales room
Financial needs – then and now
As you can see, Yearbooks are a good starting point for developing research. If you have been involved in putting together an article for any of the Yearbooks then please get in touch and maybe we can revisit the article together and review it!
This article was written by Dr Teresa Hillier; Disability historian researching the impact of legislation and medical opinion on people with cerebral palsy in the second half of the twentieth century.
If you would like to comment on this blog, please do or email Development Offcer at Cerebral Palsy Midlands firstname.lastname@example.org.
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