The University of Massachusetts Amherst
Special Collections & University Archives
CredoResearch digital collections in Credo

Collecting area: Disability

Northampton State Hospital

Northampton State Hospital Annual Reports

1856-1939
74 items (digital)
Call no.: RB 035

The Northampton State Hospital was opened in 1858 to provide moral therapy to the “insane,” and under the superintendency of Pliny Earle, became one of the best known asylums in New England. Before the turn of the century, however, the Hospital declined, facing the problems of overcrowding, poor sanitation, and inadequate funding. The push for psychiatric deinstitutionalization in the 1960s and 1970s resulted in a steady reduction of the patient population, the last eleven of whom left Northampton State in 1993.

With the Government Documents staff, SCUA has digitized the annual reports of the Northampton State Hospital from the beginning until the last published report in 1939. The reports appeared annually from 1856 until 1924 and irregularly from then until 1939.

Nourse, Rebecca Towne

Rebecca Towne Nourse Collection

1944-1993
1 box 0.25 linear feet
Call no.: MS 1023

Rebecca Nourse, born on October 5, 1928, was Laurence G. Nourse’s second child. Laurence, a graduate of Dartmouth College, was a long time educator and served as the Superintendent of Schools for Norton, Mass. from 1924 to 1958. Rebecca was born with intellectual disabilities and after attending the Norton Public Schools and the Deveraux School, now known as Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health, she was committed to the Belchertown State School in 1949. She remained at Belchertown for eleven years, transferring to the Laconia State School in Laconia, New Hampshire so she could be closer to her parents’ home in Deery. Rebecca died on March 12, 1993.

The Rebecca T. Nourse Collection though small, paints a rich portrait of the challenges of managing a daughter’s care in a State institution. The collection is made up of Laurence’s correspondence leading up to Rebecca’s commitment and with State School administration about issues ranging from replacing Rebecca’s broken glasses to attempts to make her tuition more affordable for their family. There are also a small number of letters from Rebecca to her father and mother and Rebecca’s commitment papers, school reports, certificates, brochures, and her death certificate.

Subjects

Mental retardation--Social aspectsPeople with disabilities--Civil rightsPeople with disabilities--Institutional care--Massachusetts

Contributors

Belchertown State SchoolNourse, Laurence G.

Types of material

Correspondence
Peabody, Edwin N.

McLean Asylum for the Insane Stereographs

ca. 1870
11 stereographs 0.25 linear feet
Call no.: PH 095
Depiction of Front of the
Front of the "Ladies Appleton" house.

The McLean Asylum for the Insane was founded in 1811 though a charter granted by the Massachusetts Legislature. The original campus was built around a Charles Bullfinch-designed mansion in what’s now Somerville, Mass. and was fully completed by 1818, when it was officially opened. It became the first hospital in New England dedicated to the treatment of the mentally ill. The Asylum outgrew its original campus in the 1890s and moved to Belmont, Massachusetts in 1895, where it was renamed McLean Hospital. The Hospital is still active today as a division of Massachusetts General Hospital and is a teaching hospital for Harvard Medical School.

The eleven stereographs of what was then known as the McLean Asylum for the Insane were taken by Edwin N. Peabody of Salem, Mass. as part of a larger series called “American Views.” They depict the original Somerville campus of McLean Hospital, including the buildings and grounds and the “Ladies’ Park and Billiard Room,” with women patients on the grounds outside.

Purchased from DeWolfe and Wood, 2019

Subjects

McLean Hospital--PhotographsPsychiatric hospital patients--Massachusetts--Somerville--PhotographsPsychiatric hospitals--Massachusetts--Somerville--Photographs

Types of material

Stereographs
Perske, Robert

Robert and Martha Perske Papers

1964-2005
13 boxes 19.5 linear feet
Call no.: MS 772
Depiction of Bob and Martha Perske with their dog, Wolfie, 2004
Bob and Martha Perske with their dog, Wolfie, 2004

While serving with the U.S. Navy in the Philippines during World War II, the teenaged Bob Perske became aware of the vulnerable and disabled in society and turned his life toward advocacy on their behalf. Studying for the ministry after returning to civilian life, Perske was appointed chaplain at the Kansas Neurological Institute, serving children with intellectual disabilities for 11 years, after which he became a full-time street, court, and prison worker — a citizen advocate — laboring in the cause of deinstitutionalization and civil rights of persons with disabilities, particularly those caught in the legal system. After Bob married his wife Martha in 1971, the two became partners in work, with Martha often illustrating Bob’s numerous books and articles. In 2002, Perske was recognized by the American Bar Association as the only non-lawyer to ever receive the Paul Hearne Award for Services to Persons with Disabilities.

The Perske Papers contains a fifty year record of published and unpublished writings by Bob Perske on issues surrounding persons with disabilities, along with correspondence, photographs, and other materials relating to the Perskes’ activism. The correspondence includes a particularly rich set of letters with a fellow advocate for persons with disabilities, Robert R. Williams.

Gift of Robert and Martha Perske, 2013

Subjects

Mental retardation--Social aspectsPeople with disabilities--DeinstitutionalizationPeople with disabilities--Legal status, laws, etc.

Contributors

Perske, MarthaWilliams, Robert R.

Types of material

Photographs
Rapaport, Ionel Florian

Ionel Florian Rapaport Papers

1948-1971
7 boxes 10.5 linear feet
Call no.: MS 642

Born into a Jewish family in the town of Buzau, Romania, the endocrinologist and psychopathologist Ionel Florian Rapaport entered the University of Paris in 1937 to study under the eminent psychologists Maxime Laignel-Lavastine and Charles Blondel. Surviving the war by posing as a Christian, he completed a dissertation on ritual castration, Les Faits de castration rituelle, essai sur les formes pathologiques de la conscience collective (1945), which was published three years later as Introduction à la psychopathologie collective : la secte mystique des Skoptzy. In 1953, Rapaport emigrated to the United States and joined the faculty at the Psychiatric Institute of the University of Wisconsin, where he became noted for research into the social aspects of mental disorders and juvenile delinquency. It was there in 1956, that he discovered a statistical correlation between the incidence of Down Syndrome and exposure to fluorides, a study that became widely cited by opponents of fluoridation of the water supply and widely criticized by proponents. Rapaport died of cancer in 1972.

The Rapaport Papers contain a large quantity of raw data, research notes and correspondence relating to over two decades of research into mental disorders, centered largely upon his study of the link between Down Syndrome and fluoridation. Due to the potential sensitivities of some material in the collection, researchers must agree not to reveal the names of any patients before gaining access.

Gift of Paul Connett, Dec. 2009

Subjects

Down SyndromeFluorides--Physiological effectUniversity of Wisconsin--Faculty

Contributors

Rapaport, Ionel Florian
Risser, Pat

Pat Risser Papers

1987-2015
4 boxea 4 linear feet
Call no.: MS 987

A leading voice in the psychiatric survivor movement, Pat Risser worked for years in the cause of civil rights and peer self-help for people with psychiatric disabilities. An Ohioan by birth, Risser suffered severe abuse as a child and was diagnosed with “schizophrenia” in his twenties, although he wrote that his diagnosis changed with each new doctor or therapist. Finding his condition worsen the deeper he became involved in the mental health system, Risser discovered the value of peer self-help in the early 1980s and became one of the first students in the Consumer Case Manager Aide program, where he trained to work as a professional mental health provider. A dynamic leader, he helped start dozens of self-help peer support groups in Colorado, founded several drop-in centers, and established seventeen Alliance for the Mentally Ill groups. His reputation led to his recruitment to become Director of Mental Health Consumer Concerns, a patients-rights advocacy program in California, with which he enjoyed enormous success. In 1996, he relocated to Oregon and although “semi-retired” due to poor health, he continued to work at the state and national level on mental health issues, becoming chair of Clackamas County Mental Health Council, acting as a mental health consultant, and writing and speaking on a range of topics. Risser died in 2016 at the age of 63.

Primarily a digital archive, the Pat Risser papers contain the writings and correspondence of a significant figure in the history of disability rights. Working in Colorado, California, Oregon, and Ohio, Risser was an early adopter of online technologies to communicate with fellow activists and to raise awareness about the pitfalls of the mental health system. The collection includes several important autobiographical essays by Risser.

Gift of Patricia Sandoval through Steve Stone, Oct. 2017

Subjects

AntipsychiatryEx-mental patientsPeople with disabilities--Civil rightsPsychiatric survivors movement

Types of material

Born digital
Straight Ahead Pictures

Straight Ahead Pictures Collection

1877-2007
20 boxes, films, books 33.5 linear feet
Call no.: MS 851

Established by Laurie Block and John Crowley in 1989, Straight Ahead Pictures is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to developing innovative multimedia presentations about topics in American history and culture. Working in film, video, radio, and print, Straight Ahead Pictures has often focused on the cultural history of the body, and especially the meaning of fitness, disability, health, and related concepts. They are the sponsor of the Disability History Museum, a virtual resource containing primary documents, educational materials, and exhibits.

The film and video that comprises the bulk of the Straight Ahead Pictures collection was collected, used, and produced by the company in its productions. The collection also contains several linear feet of research materials, publications, and ephemera including newsletters and publications from disability rights organizations, historical ephemera, and magazines centered on the concepts of fitness and health.

Gift of Laurie Block

Subjects

Biological fitnessDisabilitiesDocumentary filmsPeople with disabilities--Civil rights

Contributors

Block, Laurie

Types of material

Motion pictures (visual works)Video recordings (physical artifacts)
Unzicker, Rae

Rae Unzicker Papers

1979-1997
1 box 1.5 linear feet
Call no.: MS 818
Depiction of Rae Unzicker
Rae Unzicker

Rae Unzicker’s exposure to the psychiatric system began at a young age. Growing up in an abusive home, her parents sent her to psychiatrists off and on for years before she was involuntarily committed. While there, she was quickly introduced to the chaotic and damaging atmosphere of a psychiatric institution, exposing her to mandatory drugs, seclusion rooms, forced feeding, and work “therapy” that required her to wash dishes six hours a day. Once she was release, Unzicker’s road to recovery was long, but after several suicide attempts and stays at other treatment facilities, she ultimately counted herself–along with her friend Judi Chamberlin, an early leader in the movement–a psychiatric survivor. Like Chamberlin, Unzicker embraced her role as an advocate of patient’s rights and for the radical transformation of the mental-health system. In 1995, President Clinton appointed her to the National Council on Disability; two years later she was elected president of the National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy (NARPA). Unzicker was widely known for her public appearances, conferences and speeches, and her writings, including numerous articles and contributions to the book Beyond Bedlam: Contemporary Women Psychiatric Survivors Speak Out. A survivor of cancer of the jaw and breast, Rae Unzicker died at her home in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on March 22, 2001 at the age of 52.

Although a small collection, Rae Unzicker’s papers document her activities as a leading advocate for the rights of mental health patients, including transcripts of speeches and videotaped appearances, correspondence and feedback related to workshops and conferences, press kits, and newspaper clippings. The most important materials, however, are her writings. It is through her poems and her full-length memoir, You Never Gave Me M & M’s, that Unzicker’s story and voice are preserved.

Subjects

AntipsychiatryEx-mental patientsPeople with disabilities--Civil rightsPeople with disabilities--Legal status, laws, etc.Psychiatric survivors movement

Contributors

Unzicker, Rae

Types of material

MemoirsVideotapes
White Light Communications

White Light Communications Collection

1989-1999
150 items 54 linear feet
Call no.: MS 984

A not-for-profit media company based in Burlington, Vermont, White Light Communications produced dozens of videos during the late 1980s and early 1990s reflecting the voices and experiences of psychiatric survivors. With initial funding from the National Institute of Mental Health, Executive Director Paul Engels and his colleagues, all psychiatric survivors themselves, built a fully-equipped television production studio and conducted nearly one hundred interviews with ex-patients and leaders in the antipsychiatry movement. Although most of the interviews were conducted in Burlington, they also produced documentaries, and covered national events such as the final two Alternatives conferences and “Self Help Live,” a broadcast that focused on highlighting consumer/survivor leaders.

The hundreds of video interviews and other productions that comprise the White Light Communications collection were produced by, for, and about psychiatric survivors. Paul Engels interviewed nearly a hundred ex-patients including important leaders in the movement such as Judi Chamberlin, Sally Zinman, Howie the Harp, and George Ebert, and several episodes focused on the mental health system and activism in Vermont. The subjects of the interviews range widely from homelessness to involuntary treatment, peer support, suicide, surviving the mental health system, and the history of the psychiatric survivors movement.

Gift of Paul Engels, May 2017

Subjects

AntipsychiatryCivil rights movements--United StatesEx-mental patientsMental health services--United StatesMental illness--Alternative treatmentMentally ill--Social conditionsPsychiatric survivors movement

Contributors

Chamberlin, Judi, 1944-2010Dart, Justin, 1930-2002Ebert, GeorgeEngels, PaulMillett, KateZinman, Sally

Types of material

Oral histories (Document genres)U-maticVideotapes