Today many people know Pennhurst State School and Hospital as a popular tourist site. But Pennhurst and the Struggle for Disability Rights, a new collection of essays edited by James W. Conroy, copresident of the Pennhurst Memorial and Preservation Alliance (PMPA), and historian Dennis B. Downey, sheds new light on its compelling history. By its closure in 1987, Pennhurst represented what Conroy and Downey call “the epitome of what was wrong in failed public policy in the treatment of individuals with mental disabilities” (5). The editors and contributors to this collection—most of whom have direct links to Pennhurst—use legal records, government archives, media publications, institutional records, and personal accounts to paint a compelling and thorough picture of the institution and its relationship to the evolution of public policy and the disability rights movement in twentieth-century America. Although Pennhurst was previously little known to scholars outside disability studies, the authors...

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