Leanna Darlene Duncan

Profile picture for Leanna Darlene Duncan

Contact Information

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

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


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

Awards and Honors

Graduate Teacher Certificate, Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning
Widenor Teaching Appointment, 2018
John G. and Evelyn Hartman Heiligenstein Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, 2017
List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent based on ICES Scores, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017

Highlighted Publications


Lesson Spotted 2017.


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


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