Leanna Darlene Duncan

 Leanna Duncan

Contact Information

History, 309 Gregory Hall
810 S. Wright Street
M/C 466
Urbana, IL 61801
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Research Interests

  • Disability, Medicine, and Public Health
  • Twentieth Century US
  • Women, Gender, and Sexuality

Research Description

Language shifts and medical specialization have rendered the phrase “crippled child” both offensive and vague. However, the term once evoked a gamut of meanings—it referred to a pitiable innocent; the subject of a philanthropic movement; a potentially curable body. It could refer to an infant who had survived polio, a ten-year-old with spinal tuberculosis, or an adolescent born without limbs.

My project examines the role that experiences of “crippled childhood,” as articulated by disabled children and adults, played in forming and informing the crippled children's movement in the United States from 1890-1960. This movement was more than just a philanthropic project; investigation of the materials left behind by those who shaped it and spoke for it reveal a powerful activist bent to much of the rhetoric of the movement, as well as the involvement of influential disabled writers who used their childhood experiences as guides for the movement's direction.


  • PhD, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (In Progress)
  • MA, University of Tulsa, 2014
  • BA, University of Tulsa, 2013

Distinctions / Awards


  • Sigerist Circle Conference Travel Grant, 2019
  • NSF Conference Travel Grant, 2019
  • Clarke Chambers Travel Fellowship, University of Minnesota, 2018
  • Bordin-Gillette Fellowship, University of Michigan, 2018
  • Travel Research in Equity Collections Award, National Museum of American History, 2017
  • Dissertation Research Fellowship, Department of History, 2017
  • History Department Summer Pre-Dissertation Research Travel Grant, University of Illinois, 2016

Selected Publications


Magazine Articles

Duncan, Leanna, and Peter Thompson Reacting to the Past: A Conversation History @ Illinois 2017. Reacting to the Past: A Conversation.

Website Articles

Duncan, Leanna Heart and Soul!: The Ellis B. Haizlip Papers Smithsonian Collections Blog 2013.