Occupational Therapy in 1933 at Worcester State Hospital, Massachusetts

consumer/survivor/ex-patient history Apr 13, 2021

This is the third entry for my Love and Outrage project. Starting in the early 1990's, I became interested not just in individual recovery, but also collective recovery. Whenever I would give a talk in a new state, I would be sure to take an extra day to photograph and document little known stories of our collective heritage. I organized and released some of these materials in my film, Politics of Memory.  But I have so much more I want to get out to you. So my plan is to steadily release these historical treasures to let them see the light of day. I'm leaving it to you, my friends, to add commentary and put this stuff in context. These historical studies fuel my Love and Outrage

While exploring archives at Worcester State Hospital I came across a scrapbook made by the Occupational Therapy Department in 1933.  The scrapbook was illustrated by hand and contained commentary and images that describe the work of OT's at that time.  The 4 min video details the scrapbook.

When I look at these images, I have two reactions.  When I see the young women in groups that resemble a yoga class, I am impressed with OT as a profession that in some ways was ahead of its time.  I am reminded of the good experiences I personally had with OT's doing guided body scan meditations while I was on inpatients units.  I recall it was a big relief to get grounded in my body with the OT's help. But then I see the images of "Industrial Therapy".  How is digging holes in the ground a form of  "graded exercise in the open air under the close supervision of an attendant"? That's when my outrage kicks in as I am reminded of the exploitation of unpaid patient labor in order to keep the institutions operating. 

I shared these images from the 1933 OT scrapbook with my friend Lucy Gwin who was editor of MOUTH Magazine. Lucy was a fierce critic of the disability industry and a freedom fighter. She left us a wonderfully irreverent commentary on the scrapbook.

Would love to hear your thoughts and reactions to the 1933 scrapbook.