In 2010, I read Dr. Philip Pallister’s memoirs about his life in Boulder, Montana. As a small town general practitioner, as the doctor for the state’s institution for people with disabilities, and as a doctor who became immersed in the field of genetics, his story captivated me and I began to wonder more. This began my exciting new research project on his life and Montana’s care of people with disabilities from the state’s creation of the School for the Deaf, Blind, and “Feeble-Minded” in 1893 to the present. I have since spent time in Boulder talking with Dr. Pallister, touring the institution, and visiting the Boulder Heritage Center. I have also done research at the state historical society and conducted numerous interviews. I am now in the process of writing a two-part article and a book on this topic.
The project focuses on the state institution, clinical and research genetics, eugenics, and the role of physicians, administrators, politicians, parents, and citizen groups in changing understandings, laws, policies and practices. I track the shift from institutionalization, forced sterilization, silence and shame in the first half of the century to deinstitutionalization, parental organizations, special education, Special Olympics, and a growing recognition of the rights and responsibilities of individuals with disabilities in the second half. I situate Montana’s story in the larger national context, by examining the doctor’s role in the field of genetics and the state’s role in the disability rights movement of the late twentieth century. Ultimately, the work will contribute to the relatively new and growing literature on the history of disabilities within American culture in the last half of the twentieth century by zeroing in on the West, and Montana in particular.
My work on Montana builds on my previous book, A More Perfect Union: Holistic Worldviews and the Transformation of American Culture after World War II.This monograph uncovers a strong communal, holistic, and often utopian sensibility in American society that both challenged the logic of the Cold War and contributed to the twentieth century’s most powerful social movements from civil rights to environmentalism to the counterculture. I illustrate this through a careful analysis of individuals who embraced and articulated a holistic vision of the world and put it into practice in their various places of work: nature writer and zoologist Rachel Carson; structural engineer R. Buckminster Fuller; civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.; humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow; and Jesuit priest and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. It ends with a chapter on the Esalen Institute in California, a Western place where holistic understandings and practices took hold.
A More Perfect Union: Holistic Worldviews and the Transformation of American Culture after World War II. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. Paperback edition, 2012.
“Hooked on Inquiry: History Labs in the Methods Course” The History Teacher 45 (August 2012): 23-35.
“From Corn Chips to Garbology: The Dynamics of Historical Inquiry,” with Stevan Kalmon, Peggy O’Neill-Jones, and Cynthia Stout. OAH Magazine of History 26 (July 2012): 13-18.
Teaching Nature, Culture, and History in the West: A Grand Canyon Multimedia Partnership,” with Paul Hirt, Journal of the West 49 (Summer 2010): 10-33.
“Contact, Encounter, and Exchange at Esalen: A Window onto Late Twentieth-Century American Spirituality,” Pacific Historical Review 77 (August 2008): 453-487.
Consulting Editor, “History Day,” Issue of the OAH Magazine of History 26 (July 2012). “National History Day and the Evolution of History Education,” Foreword to History Day Issue, OAH Magazine of History 26 (July 2012): 5-8.
“Coming to Manassas: Peace, War, and the Making of a Virginia Community.” A Historic Resource Study for the National Park Service. Brooklyn, NY: American Public History Laboratory, 2003, 187 pages.
“Laurel Grove School: Educating the First Generation Born into Freedom,” A Historic Study for the Laurel Grove School Association, Brooklyn, NY: American History Workshop, 2002, 41 pages.
The American Soul Rush: Esalen and the Rise of Spiritual Privilege (New York: New York University Press, 2012). Xii +207 pp. $30.00. Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions (forthcoming 2014).
Understanding Jonestown and Peoples Temple. By Rebecca Moore. (Westport, Conn.: Praeger Press, 2009). xi + 179 pp. $34.95. Pacific Historical Review, 79 (Aug 2010): 474-75.
On the Edge of the Future: Esalen and the Evolution of American Culture. By Jeffrey Kripal and Glenn W. Shuck, editors. (Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 2005). xii +323 pp. $21.95), Pacific Historical Review 76 (Feb 2007): 141-143.
“Fuller, R. Buckminster, Jr. (1895–1983).” Macmillan Encyclopedia of Energy. Ed. John Zumerchik. 3 vols. New York: Macmillan Reference, 2001. Vol. 2: 534-537.
Carson, Rachel (1907-1964).” Macmillan Encyclopedia of Energy. Ed. John Zumerchik. 3 vols. New York: Macmillan Reference, 2001. Vol.1: 221-223.
I have presented my work at the conferences of the American Historical Association, American Environmental History, Arizona Historical Society, Arizona Council for Social Studies, Arizona Education, Montana Historical Society, Organization of American Historians, Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association, Southwest Oral History, Teaching American History Grant Symposium, Virginia Council for Social Studies, Virginia Forum, and the Western History Association.