The Sorrows of Those to Whom They Minister: The Los Angeles Psychopathic Association and Institutionalization in Southern California, 18901930

Saturday, January 5, 2019: 1:50 PM
Williford B (Hilton Chicago)
Eileen V. Wallis, Cal Poly
This paper uses the Los Angeles Psychopathic Association (LAPA) as a case study to understand Progressive Era lobbying efforts around disability and mental illness in the United States. The LAPA was the first southern California-based reform organization devoted specifically to the care and treatment of individuals with disabilities, addictions, and mental illnesses. It was a coalition of doctors, social reformers, and sympathetic laypeople. Historians of the region have largely forgotten the LAPA today. However, this paper argues that it was one of most powerful lobbying groups working on medical issues in the region, and its most notable success (if one wishes to term it as such) was the creation of California’s second state institution for the disabled, Pacific State Hospital, which opened in southern California in the early 1920s.

I contextualize the LAPA and its actions within the larger context of Progressive Era attitudes about medicine and the societal impact of disability. It was the attitudes of the day, I argue, that lead the LAPA to prioritize institutionalization of individuals with disabilities, addictions, and mental illness over those individuals’ legal, social, and medical rights.