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, “crippled child” 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.

Although children with orthopedic disabilities had long evoked their share of pity and charity, they became common targets of organized philanthropy only in the early twentieth century. My project examines the experiences of “crippled children” in the United States from 1890-1960, arguing that increasing public and philanthropic attention throughout the twentieth century altered the ways in which these children experienced the intersection of gender, race, and disability.


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

Distinctions / Awards

  • 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


  • 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.

Website Articles

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