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Pioneers, Disability, and the National Register of Historic Places

In March we observe National Women's History Month by looking at three National Parks honoring women who worked or lived in the world of disability.

1. Agnes Richards

Photo of Agnes Richards, RN
Agnes Richards, RN

Agnes Richards was a nurse who worked in sanitariums in the early twentieth century. After seeing the deplorable conditions that people with mental health challenges were subjected to she decided she could do better. She opened her own facility in Glendale. She named it Rockhaven.Having seen how often women in facilities were subjected to abuse Agnes decided to only take female patients and only hire female staff for positions that had daily contact with the residents. Agnes trained her staff to treat residents with respect and dignity. At Rockhaven, residents lived in bungalows rather than a cold and unfriendly institution. Agnes created a yard and beautiful gardens for the residents to enjoy. Activities were a part of daily life including regular outings that allowed the women to experience life outside the facility under controlled conditions helping to ease some back into the world. 

Agnes was a pioneer in creating a sanitarium that built a reputation as the highest standard of mental healthcare for women. We honor her for her unique and respectful approach to caring for her residents.

Read More about Assistive Technology for Mental Health Challenges.


2.  Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman risked her life to lead hundreds of slaves to freedom through a network of safe houses named the underground railroad. During the Civil War she helped the Union Army by working as a spy. After the Civil War ended, Harriet dedicated her life to helping impoverished former slaves and the elderly.

But, did you know that when she was a young girl she refused to help an overseer seeking an escaped slave. Angered, he threw a heavy object at Harriet, hitting her in the head. The injury left her with severe headaches and epilepsy which lasted for the rest of her life.

Harriet Tubman surmounted daunting odds to  personally lead people out of slavery to freedom in the North defining her as the "Moses of her People." We honor her for her strength of character.

3. Irene Burns

  The Irene Burns House is a National Historic Park commemorating the life of Irene, a schoolteacher who became the first woman elected to political office in Placer County, CA. After three terms as County Superintendent of Schools (1914-1926) she established a school for children with disabilities in her Auburn home, know as the Burns School.

We honor Irene Burns for her life-long commitment to children with disabilities and for her breaking of barriers to women in her work to run for political office.

Read More about Assistive Technology for Learning Challenges.

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