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Essay on disability history by WKU’s Jennings receives awards

An essay by Audra Jennings, Director of WKU’s Office of Scholar Development, has received two honors.

Audra Jennings

Audra Jennings

“An Emblem of Distinction”: The Politics of Disability Entitlement, 1940-1950 received the Outstanding Article Award for 2013 from the Disability History Association and the James Madison Prize from the Society for History in the Federal Government.

The article, published in Veterans’ Policies, Veterans’ Politics: New Perspectives on Veterans in the Modern United States (University Press of Florida 2012), looks at the military and Veterans Administration amputation and prosthetics programs to examine disabled veterans’ activism for greater rights in the World War II and postwar period.

Stephen Ortiz, editor of the collection, called Dr. Jennings’ essay a significant contribution to the study of disability and veterans’ policies during that era.

“In describing the hard-fought battles between federal policymakers and U.S. veterans’ organizations over prosthetics and rehabilitation, she explains not just how veterans disability policies emerged in a contested atmosphere, but also how the results drew an even sharper line between welfare for veterans and welfare for non-veterans,” Ortiz said. “It is a superb study, and an unbelievably relevant one given the nation’s current struggles with a new generation of disabled veterans hoping to successfully integrate back into American society.”

The review committee for the Disability History Association said her essay is “both exemplary and exceptional disability history. Beautifully written and powerfully argued, Jennings’ work situates the voices and experiences of disabled people at the center of her analysis.”

The citation from The Society for History in the Federal Government said Dr. Jennings’ article “stands as an important contribution to the study of the federal government’s role in both demobilization and its role in expanding the welfare state of America’s veterans.”

Dr. Jennings said she was honored to have her work recognized by others in the field.

“My broader research agenda grew out of my grandfather’s stories about the World War II era,” she said. “He was injured before the war and unable to serve in the military. Instead, he built airplanes during the war. Throughout my childhood, he told stories about his work in that factory and the many disabled individuals who worked alongside him. Those stories served as my entry into the field of disability history.”

Dr. Jennings’ article grew out of a larger book project, Out of the Horrors of War: The Politics of (Dis)Ability in the Postwar United States, which will be published by the University of Pennsylvania Press.

Contact: Audra Jennings, (270) 745-5043.

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