Caroline Lieffers

Study program:
History of Science and Medicine
Current affiliation:
Yale University

Caroline Lieffers (history of science and medicine, Yale University) is studying the relationship between disability and citizenship in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century United States to better understand how diverse groups of people can contribute to a nation’s goals.

Doctoral research

Disability, Citizenship, and American Nation-Making, 1850-1914

Caroline’s doctoral research examines physical disability as a site for United States nation-making and imperialism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Her study analyzes the experiences of soldiers in the Civil War Invalid Corps, the medical care provided by the Office of Indian Affairs (using Canada as a comparison), and the role of artificial limbs in American endeavours overseas. She hopes that this research will help us understand more fully how citizenship, social participation, and dignity for people with disabilities was mediated and even defined by the larger national projects in which they actively participated.

Caroline Lieffers is a PhD student in the history of science and medicine at Yale University, where her research focuses on the intersection of physical disability, citizenship, and United States nation-making and imperialism in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Caroline graduated with a BA (Gold Medal) in English and linguistics at the University of Alberta in 2008, after which she earned an MA in history in 2010. She has published widely on the histories of health, domestic life, and travel, with peer-reviewed articles in such venues as the Journal of Social History, Women's History Review, and the Canadian Bulletin of Medical History (forthcoming). She has also curated several exhibits and is currently partnering with another historian to prepare a new exhibit on disability history for Yale University Library.

Caroline worked in long-term care for several years and has volunteered at hospitals and a summer camp for children with disabilities. Her passion for the history of disability crystallized during an internship in 2010 at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History. She has also worked in reference and collections at the Provincial Archives of Alberta and the University of Alberta Libraries, as well as at Rutherford House Provincial Historic Site, which offered her exciting opportunities to share her passion for history with the public. Caroilne has made numerous media appearances to discuss her research and exhibits, is a volunteer speaker for Yale's Science in the News program, and co-founded a disability studies working group at Yale.

Caroline believes that disability history’s most important task is to expose how our understandings of difference are socially malleable and historically contingent, a task that also exposes a shared humanity. Questions about the relationship between disability, citizenship, and larger state projects persist today, and she looks forward to exploring them and enriching our collective record.