Poster Session
Issue Date: July 2015
Published Online: July 01, 2015
Updated: April 30, 2020
The Power of Two: Willard and Spackman’s Influence on Occupational Therapy
Author Affiliations
  • Sound Beach, New York
  • University of Minnesota
  • Midwestern University
Article Information
Education of OTs and OTAs / Professional Issues / Health Services Research and Education
Poster Session   |   July 01, 2015
The Power of Two: Willard and Spackman’s Influence on Occupational Therapy
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, July 2015, Vol. 69, 6911510215.
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, July 2015, Vol. 69, 6911510215.

Date Presented 4/18/2015

A historical study of Helen Willard (1894 to 1980) and Clare Spackman (1909 to 1992) included document review and interviews with family members and colleagues. Findings relate to current occupational therapy concerns of practitioners’ occupational balance, developing leadership, and globalization.

SIGNIFICANCE: Helen Willard (1894 to 1980) and Clare Spackman (1909 to 1992) influenced occupational therapy through their writing and professional service. The textbook—now titled Willard and Spackman’s Occupational Therapy (12th ed.)—was one of the first comprehensive occupational therapy textbooks in 1947 and was coedited by Willard and Spackman. Their collaborative partnership also influenced the founding and early years of the World Federation of Occupational Therapists.
INNOVATION: In this research, we uncovered a new understanding of the leadership roles played by Willard and Spackman, including a better understanding of how they achieved life balance in their leadership roles. We attempted to answer the following research question: How did the professional and personal collaboration of Willard and Spackman influence occupational therapy?
METHOD: We used historical research with a pluralistic school of causation. A pluralistic view historically constructs social, cultural, political, and economic development. Oral history interviews occurred in Vermont and Virginia. One researcher collected archival data at the Wilma L. West Library. Two researchers conducted field investigation in Vermont, and one researcher investigated in Pennsylvania. Individuals who knew Willard and Spackman personally or professionally provided oral history interviews. Three previously collected oral histories by one of the researchers, which were excerpted in publication, also have bearing on this study and were included.
We developed and used a semistructured interview guide for participants to describe events spanning 30 to 50 yr ago. Data collection included primary and secondary sources. Primary data included print sources of all editions of Willard and Spackman’s Occupational Therapy; journal articles; archival documents; pamphlets; memorabilia; private papers, letters, and photographs; and original Willard art work in the Willard family collection. Secondary data included occupational therapy history in the United States and in the World Federation of Occupational Therapy in the context of Willard and Spackman’s involvement. Topics included reconstruction aides, military occupational therapy, curative workshops, and occupational therapy from 1915 to 1980. Analytic methods included theme analysis and construction from primary source documents and oral histories. Text analysis following saturation was triangulated to the historical documents to reconstruct a proximity of the historical story.
RESULTS: Two main themes described Willard and Spackman’s influence on occupational therapy: sacred spaces and enduring legacies. Three subthemes also emerged: occupational therapy education, global practice, and power of two. Willard and Spackman created time and space necessary for rejuvenation and occupational balance, collaborated personally and professionally in ways that fostered their own leadership, helped to shape occupational therapy, and developed occupational therapy leaders around the world.
CONCLUSION: Willard and Spackman were leaders in occupational therapy education and practice and are mentors for future leaders. Their accomplishments are likely stronger than what either could have achieved individually, and they maintained time and place for personal pursuits. Their example can serve as a model to current occupational therapy practitioners.