Jessie Haskins

Student with disability causes system change

On January 27, 1896, Jessie Haskins, a student with a disability at Carleton College, wrote to the editor of the Minnesota Bulletin of Corrections and Charities stating that “something should be done to provide schools for deformed and crippled children.” Later that year she presented a paper, “The Need of an Institution for Crippled and Deformed Children,” at the Fifth Minnesota Conference of Corrections and Charities. She argued that “it is best for the state that such children should be cured whenever possible and educated so that they may be helpful, self-sustaining members of the state.” After this conference, Hastings Hart, the Executive Secretary of the Board of Corrections and Charities, suggested that Haskins meet with Dr. Arthur J. Gillette, an orthopedic surgeon in St. Paul, before the 1897 legislative session. The three worked together to get the legislature to pass a bill to establish a Minnesota Institute for Crippled and Deformed Children, which ultimately became Gillette Hospital.

The book, We Hold This Treasure, by Dr. Steven Koop, provides details of Haskins’ life and her aggressive and effective advocacy. This book is included in With an Eye to the Past on the Minnesota Developmental Disabilities Council Web site: