Working Against Odds: Stories of Disabled Women’s Work Lives
Mary Grimley Mason describes the viewpoints, struggles, strategies, and triumphs of eighteen women with a range of physical and sensory impairments. She relates how each came to terms with her disability and achieved self-identity and self-sufficiency in an able-bodied world. Drawing on thirty extensive interviews, Mason skillfully interweaves her own experience of childhood polio with the voices of impaired women across generations and from diverse race, ethnic, class, and work backgrounds. Although each woman’s story and perspective are unique, the compelling narratives in this illuminating and teachable volume reveal shared concerns and feelings about the ways in which the disabled see themselves, how others perceive the impaired, and how our workplace culture perpetuates the double hindrance of gender and disability discrimination. The women profiled here express in their own words the process of claiming their disability and integrating it into their identity, the adjustment to various dependencies and caregivers, and approaches to coping with social discrimination and marginalization. They also discuss overcoming such obstacles in the workplace as an employer’s refusal to grant an interview, lack of accommodations after employment, and negative stereotyping on the job or in job placement. In these accounts we meet, for example, Debbie, born with cerebral palsy, who struggled to get her family to accept her as she is; Barbara, born with orthopedic problems, who confronted her mother’s fear that she would not be employed or find a husband; and Adrienne, blind from birth, who aggressively confronted discrimination in the workplace through litigation. Taken together, the stories of these ordinary yet remarkable individuals build a sense of community. Working against Odds tells disabled women that they are not alone in grappling with the tremendous barriers to independence and helps able-bodied readers understand the challenging life choices and work experiences of those with impairments. As a whole, the insightful book offers an intimate view of disability history and issues in America.