Friday, May 29, 2009

Conscientious objectors: a history of advocacy in mental hospitals

Syracuse Professor Steven Taylor's article entitled Conscientious Objectors of WWII is featured in the "On Faith" section of the Washington Post. He writes about the history of CO's in advocating for better conditions for those in mental hospitals, noting that it began when approximately 3000 men back in WWII were assigned to work in mental hospitals and training schools and exposed brutal conditions found there. Quakers, Mennonites, Jews, African American Muslims and others worked as individuals and groups to improve conditions any way they could.

He writes:

After the end of the war, the Philadelphia COs established a national foundation to further their aims. Included among their supporters were Eleanor Roosevelt, ACLU founder Roger Baldwin, actress Helen Hayes, and author Pearl Buck. From 1946 to 1950, their foundation published educational materials for attendants and the public, created a legal division to reform state commitment laws, and sponsored radio dramas broadcast nationally on CBS and NBC. Then, in 1950, faced by chronic financial problems and led by a board of directors lacking the passion and zeal of its founders, the foundation formed by the COs merged with two mainstream organizations to create a new mental health organization. Within a brief period of time, the new organization lost interest in institutional conditions and turned its attention to other matters. The institutions became out of sight, out of mind once more. The efforts of World War II COs to reform the nation's care of people with psychiatric and intellectual disabilities have since faded from professional and public memory.

Although Professor Taylor notes that current reform movements are led by those most directly affected, people with disabilities and their families, his article serves as a tribute to all of those who came from different walks of faith and gave valuable service to vulnerable Americans.

You can read the rest of the piece here.

2 comments:

william Peace said...

The history of CI during WWI is shocking , especially in Britain where men were imprisoned and beaten. It is a history worth reading.

Wheelie Catholic said...

Bill,
Thanks for adding this information.