Title

Occupational and Idleness: Which is the Egg and Which is the Chicken?

Start Time

15-10-2009 10:45 AM

End Time

15-10-2009 11:15 AM

Abstract

There has been much discussion about what occupation is but little discussion about why occupation became so important during the Progressive Era (1890-1914) during which time occupational therapy became organized and recognized. In other words, what was the problem to which occupation was the solution? This presentation proposes that the problem was idleness. Idleness according dictionaries involves not working, not being active, not spending of filling time with activities, not keeping busy, habitually doing nothing or avoiding work, lazy, not of real worth or importance, meaningless, loitering, and aimless. Herbert Hall, M.D. states that “idleness too long continued is as deadening to the spirit as it is disabling to the body...Idleness...which is forced upon us in long illness or in delayed convalescence, too often means degeneration, and in the end, increased suffering.” Some popular quotes of the time period were “trouble springs from idleness, and grievous toil from needless ease (Benjamin Franklin). The way to be nothing is to do nothing (Nathaniel Howe). Evil thought often come from idleness (Gaelic Proverb). Idleness is the devil’s workshop (old proverb). Several themes emerge from the authors of the early twentieth century. Health and how to better attain and maintain it was one. So was getting work done at institutions for the insane and tuberculosis as cheaply as possible. Another problem was finding a way for poor people to pay for their stay in the institution. In addition there was a need for manpower (person power) to work in an economy that was heating up due to World War I that required “all hands on deck.” As the war progressed and ended there was another concern that disabled soldiers and sailors would not return to paying jobs and drain the economy to pay pensions. Occupation was often seen as the solution. Making idleness “the bad guy” was a popular message. The message was carried in a variety of ways: creating jobs for the handicapped (disabled), supporting job training and working conditions, encouraging voluntarism, infusing the idea of the work ethic into religious messages, publishing essays and editorials in the popular press lauding work and publishing articles in professional journals. Each of these communication approaches will be explored and discussed in the presentation.

References

Gould, L.L. (2001). American in the Progressive Era: 1890-1914. Essex England: Pearson Education.

Hall, H.J. (1923). OT-A new profession. Concord, MA: Rumford Press.

Purdum, H.D. (1911). The psycho-therapeutic value of occupation. Maryland Psychiatric Quarterly, 1(2), 35-36.

Rodgers, D.T. (1974). The work ethic in industrial America: 1850-1920. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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Oct 15th, 10:45 AM Oct 15th, 11:15 AM

Occupational and Idleness: Which is the Egg and Which is the Chicken?

There has been much discussion about what occupation is but little discussion about why occupation became so important during the Progressive Era (1890-1914) during which time occupational therapy became organized and recognized. In other words, what was the problem to which occupation was the solution? This presentation proposes that the problem was idleness. Idleness according dictionaries involves not working, not being active, not spending of filling time with activities, not keeping busy, habitually doing nothing or avoiding work, lazy, not of real worth or importance, meaningless, loitering, and aimless. Herbert Hall, M.D. states that “idleness too long continued is as deadening to the spirit as it is disabling to the body...Idleness...which is forced upon us in long illness or in delayed convalescence, too often means degeneration, and in the end, increased suffering.” Some popular quotes of the time period were “trouble springs from idleness, and grievous toil from needless ease (Benjamin Franklin). The way to be nothing is to do nothing (Nathaniel Howe). Evil thought often come from idleness (Gaelic Proverb). Idleness is the devil’s workshop (old proverb). Several themes emerge from the authors of the early twentieth century. Health and how to better attain and maintain it was one. So was getting work done at institutions for the insane and tuberculosis as cheaply as possible. Another problem was finding a way for poor people to pay for their stay in the institution. In addition there was a need for manpower (person power) to work in an economy that was heating up due to World War I that required “all hands on deck.” As the war progressed and ended there was another concern that disabled soldiers and sailors would not return to paying jobs and drain the economy to pay pensions. Occupation was often seen as the solution. Making idleness “the bad guy” was a popular message. The message was carried in a variety of ways: creating jobs for the handicapped (disabled), supporting job training and working conditions, encouraging voluntarism, infusing the idea of the work ethic into religious messages, publishing essays and editorials in the popular press lauding work and publishing articles in professional journals. Each of these communication approaches will be explored and discussed in the presentation.