“Pennsylvania History Presents” is an online feature of the Pennsylvania Historical Association’s (PHA) website. Begun in 2019, we offer for free public access one article from the current issue of its quarterly award-winning journal, Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies.

The Summer 2022 (89.3) issue is a special theme edition on “Exploring Disability History in Pennsylvania.” The Guest Editor is Dennis Downey of Millersburg University. Dr. Downey and Pennsylvania History Editor Linda Ries have chosen for “Pennsylvania History Presents” an article by Mary B. Schreiner titled: “Realities of Life in an Institution: Dispelling Misconceptions of Disability.”

Abstract: Pennsylvania citizens who were residents of Pennhurst, a state institution opened in 1908 for the “feeble-minded” of society, had unique life experiences. These experiences might seem ordinary but are extraordinary until one considers the setting in which they occurred or when one grasps the profound meaning of what happened there. Interviews with survivors of life in this institution, along with close examination of available archival records about others who lived at Pennhurst, yielded stories and memories that unveiled surprising realities about people with disabilities, both yesterday and today.

The PHA also hosted a virtual roundtable on this special issue.