History 397F: Ideas of Normalcy in the United States

TuTh 9:30-10:45

Herter 111

Fall 2005


Paper #1 Assignment

Paper#2 Assignment

Research Assignment

Research Resources

Paper Cover Sheet



Professor Laura Lovett

635 Herter Hall



Office Hours: T, Th 11-12 and by appointment.


Course Description:

This course will consider how ideas of "normalcy" and disability have influenced our ideas of physical attributes, mental abilities, sexuality, families, race and ethnicity, class markers and even standards of living.  Using material and approaches from intellectual history, social history, and medical history, we will examine how these constructions of "normalcy" and disability changed over the 19th and 20th centuries.


I expect everyone in this class to be courteous, cooperative, and supportive of each other at all times.  You may disagree with someone's ideas or values, but please be mindful and respectful of each other's differences. All opinions are welcome.



Texts: (Available at Amherst Books or at Library Reserves)

            Frank Gilbreth and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, Cheaper by the Dozen

            Stephanie Coontz, The Way We Never Were

Selected articles and book chapters online via WebCT


Course Website: http://webct.oit.umass.edu

            See WebCT guidelines below.



Paper #1:  4-5 page paper on Cheaper by the Dozen. Due 9/22.


Paper #2:  4-5 page paper using primary sources pulled together exclusively for this class by the administrators of  the online Disability History Museum (http://www.disabilitymuseum.org).  For this paper you will have a choice of two different paper topics.  Option A :due 10/18. Option B : due 10/25.


Assignment #3:  You will be asked to pull together  a set of five primary sources which meet a set of criteria on a topic or theme you find important. This assignment will require you  to spend some time in the library seeking out materials and a detailed write-up explaining your choices. Exemplary assignments may be eligible to be incorporated into a website or film. Due 11/29.


Take Home Final: 4-5 pages on The Way We Never Were.


(Detailed paper assignments will be distributed in class.)


Participation: Your participation grade has three components: (1) Attendance, (2) Contribution to class discussion, and (3) WebCT discussion participation. You are expected to attend every class meeting, to be prepared, and to contribute to our discussion. Each week you will be asked to respond to a reading question on the WebCT discussion pages for this class.  Questions will be posted on WebCT one week in advance.  Your responses will be due by Monday at 9pm.  Your responses should demonstrate that you have read and thought about the class material.  If you cannot post your response, you may bring a one page response paper to section in its place. Each response will be graded on a two point scale: depending on the quality of your response, you will receive two points, one point, or no points.



Paper #1:                   20%

Paper #2:                   20%

Paper #3:                   20%

Take Home Final:    20%

Participation:             20% 


Grade Scale

The University Grade Scale will be followed:

A = 93 and above; A- = 92-90; B+ = 89-88; B = 83-87; B- = 82-80; C+=79-78; C = 73-77; C- = 72-70; D+ = 69-69; D = 60-67; F = 59 and below.


Late Assignments

Papers handed in late will be graded down one letter grade per day late.


Academic Honesty

            Plagiarism is a serious violation of expected academic conduct.  Your work must be your own.  If you quote or paraphrase work from someone else, you must give credit and provide a reference for that source.  Links to guidelines on plagiarism, including the official policy on academic honesty, can be found on the following webpage: http://www.umass.edu/history/links_writing.html.  The penalty for plagiarism in this class is zero credit for the assignment in question.



            If you have a documented disability that may affect your performance in the class, please speak to the instructor as soon as possible so that appropriate arrangements can be made.


Reading:  You are expected to do the assigned reading in advance. 


Schedule (subject to change)


Week 1           What is "natural"? What is "normal"?   


Reading: * Edward Devine, "The Normal and the Ideal"(Excerpt)

Henry A. Lafler, "Amateur Looter in San Francisco" New York Sun, May 6, 1906, p. 12.


Quiz: Are you normal?

Week 1 Discussion Question:
How is the idea of normalcy being used in the "Are your normal?" Quiz?

Week 2           American Standards: Why do we take indoor plumbing for

(9/13-9-15)     granted.


                        Reading: *Marina Moskowitz, Standard of Living (Excerpt)

*Suellen Hoy, Chasing Dirt: The American Pursuit of Cleanliness (Excerpt)


Recommended: Jane Lancaster, Making Time, Chapter 10  (On reserve, optional reading)

Week 2 Discussion Question: (Due Thursday morning)

Marina Moskowitz argues that "The standard of living was not a measure of achievement,
but a measure of aspiration" (p. 11). What factors influenced people's aspirations?
Edward T. Devine was a Progressive Era (1890-1920) reformer. Are his ideas of the
"normalist" reformer embodied in the campaigns for cleanliness described by Suellen Hoy?
Why or why not?



Week 3           Inventing the Normal Child


Reading: Cheaper by the Dozen

* Jeffrey Brosco, "Weight Charts and Well Child Care," Archives of Paediatric and Adolescent Medicine 155 (2001) 1385-1389.

* Angus McLaren, Twentieth Century Sex: A History (Excerpt)


                        PAPER #1 DUE 9/22 (4-5 pages on Cheaper by the Dozen)


Week 4           Embodying Norms: Making Miss America


                        Reading: * Joan Jacobs Brumberg, The Body Project (Excerpt)


                        Screening of "Fit" and discussion with filmmaker, Laurie Block



Week 5           The Myth of Better Breeding


Reading: * Stephen Jay Gould, The Mismeasure of Man (Excerpt)

* Christina Cogdell, Eugenic Design (Excerpt)

* Diane Paul, Controlling Human Heredity (Excerpt)

            * Alexandra Stern, Eugenic Nation (Excerpt)



Week 6           Moralism and Mental Testing (Laurie Block)


                        Reading: * Hamilton Cravens, The Triumph of Evolution (Excerpt)


--Laurie Block, Stereotypes About People With Disabilities
--Rhoda Olkin, Questions to Ask yourself about How You Understand the Experience of Disability
--Paul Longmore, Minority and Difference
--Irving Kenneth Zola, The Language Of Disability: Problems Of Politics And Practice

--Irving Kenneth Zola, Four Steps On The Road To Invalidity: The Denial Of Sexuality, Anger, Vulnerability And Potentiality
--Irving Kenneth Zola, The Oration: Ageing And Disability: Toward A Unifying Agenda



Week 7           Rethinking Ability and Disability (Laurie Block)


          Reading: * Edna Yost and Lillian Gilbreth, Straight Talk for Disabled




                        PAPER #2 Option A Due 10/18



Week 8           Visualizing Norms: Seeing Disability


Reading: * Joseph P. Shapiro , No Pity (Excerpt)

* Robert Bogdan, Freak Show (Excerpt)

* Rosemarie Thomson, "Seeing the Disabled"


PAPER #2 Option B Due 10/25


Last day to drop with a "W."


Week 9           Sex Differences: Hairy Men and Beautiful Women

( 11/1-11/3)

Reading: * Cynthia Russett, Sexual Science (Excerpt)

*    Anne Fausto-Sterling , "Two Sexes Are Not Enough"

*     (Optional recommended reading,: Amy Bloom, Normal: Transsexual CEOs, Crossdressing Cops, and Hermaphrodites with Attitude)



Week 10         Sexuality and Other Obsessions                                                                                              


Reading: * Jennifer Terry, An American Obsession, (Excerpt)

*     Joanne Meyerowitz, "Sex Research at the Borders of Gender: Transvestites, Transsexuals and Alfred C. Kinsey," Bulletin of the History of Medicine 75 (2001), pp. 72-90.



Week 11         Not Norman Rockwell

( 11/15-11/17)

Reading: The Way We Never Were, Introduction and Chapter 1

            * Margaret Lock, "Accounting for Disease and Distress: Morals of the Normal and Abnormal," in Albrecht et al., The Handbook of Social Studies in Health and Medicine (Sage 2003), 259-276.



Week 12         Thanksgiving


                        Library Research for Paper #3

                        11/24 No Class


Week 13         As Seen on TV                                                                                                                              


                        Reading: The Way We Never Were, Chapter 2


                        Screening of "Color Adjustment" by filmmaker Marlon Riggs


                        ASSIGNMENT #3 Due 11/29


Week 14         Representations of Race


Reading:* Michael Omi, "The Changing Meaning of Race," in Neil Smelser, William Julius Wilson, and Faith Mitchell, editors,
America Becoming:  Racial Trends and Their Consequences(Washington, D.C.:  NNational Academy Press, 2000).

* Karen Brodkin, How Jews Became White Folks (Excerpt)

* The Way We Never Were, Chapter 10



Week 15         A Perverse History of Family Values                                                                                     


                        Reading: The Way We Never Were, Chapters 7 and 11

                                    *Molly Ladd Taylor, "Eugenics, Sterilisation, and Modern

Marriage in the USA: The Strange Career of Paul Popenoe," Gender & History 13 (2001), 298-327.





WebCT Guidelines


To access your WebCT course, you must have an OIT Account and password.  This can be obtained from the OIT office, first floor of the Lederle Lowrise room A109 (OIT web Site: http://www.oit.umass.edu/). Once your account is active your WebCT enrollment will occur the next business day.


Q: How do I logon to MyWebCT?


A: Logging in to your WebCT course is very easy. The following will step you through the process.



1.         Login to your Internet Service Provider (more than likely UMass)

2.         Start  INTERNET EXPLORER

3.         Either go up to the Address Box or go to File/Open. Type in the UMass WebCT courses URL which is https://webct.oit.umass.edu/

4.         Click on the link on the right that says myWebCT.

5.         Type in your WebCT ID and Password. Be careful to type in the information correctly. WebCT is case sensitive, which means that lower or upper case does matter. Your WebCT ID will be the same as your NetID and will always be all lower case.


If your e-mail address is johndoe@student.umass.edu, your NetID will be johndoe. Your password, again, is the same as your UMAccess password.

You must have an active account for your enrollment in any registered course that is using WebCT. If you do not have an active account you will not be enrolled in the WebCT component of your course until you have activated your account.