Wanda J. Mahoney, Christine O. Peters, Peggy M. Martin; Willard and Spackman’s Enduring Legacy for Future Occupational Therapy Pathways. Am J Occup Ther 2016;71(1):7101100020. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2017.023994
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© 2021 American Occupational Therapy Association
Helen Willard (1894–1980) and Clare Spackman (1909–1992) paved the way for modern and future occupational therapy. This article validates the need for historical research in occupational therapy and presents a historical study on how the personal and professional collaboration of Willard and Spackman influenced occupational therapy. Data were gathered from archival documents, private papers, and 10 oral histories with colleagues, students, family, and friends. We used text analysis with triangulation to develop themes to reconstruct a proximity of the historical story. Two major themes that describe Willard’s and Spackman’s influence on occupational therapy are (1) Enduring Legacies and (2) Sacred Solitude and Chosen Gatherings. Subthemes within Enduring Legacies include Guiding Practice, Leaders in Service, and Educational Leadership. These women strongly influenced practitioners worldwide while maintaining the sacredness of their private lives. Their example can serve as a model for current and future occupational therapy practitioners and leaders.
Seemingly, old values are least considered when charting new directions. . . . We have no historical sense. The problem primarily lies in not taking the time to assiduously locate our profession’s diggings, to excavate what is relevant, and, then, to learn from what is unearthed. . . . Lessons can be learned. (pp. 514–515)
At the present time the emphasis of Physical Medicine is being placed primarily on the value of Occupational Therapy for physical injuries. This omits entirely the very definite contribution made by Occupational Therapy in other fields, such as psychiatry or tuberculosis. (Spackman, 1947, p. 1)
“Willard and Spackman . . . were a kind of household word all over the world. They were ambassadors for OT. . . . With other professionals . . . they helped to put OT on the map in administrative ways as well. So they did a lot for us, indeed” (interview with R. Miller, November 24, 1996).
You immerse yourself in your profession, in a sense you marry it, you give your all to it. But you have to live another life as well, and you have to build a comfortable lifestyle. Unless it’s enriched somehow, you won’t be a very good therapist. They knew how to pack it off for the summer, go up to the lake and live their life. They knew how to go off to Europe and have fun. (R. B. Wiemer, oral history with C. Peters, March 18–19, 2003; Peters, 2013, p. 46)
I expect to be on vacation during the month of August, but shall return to the city on September 4. Following that time, I should be glad to be of all possible service in promoting further understanding and increased recruitment in the health fields. (Willard, 1956)
Occupational therapy historians should systematically study how occupational therapy pioneers built its practice and knowledge base.
Historical research needs to be elevated in value so that sufficient funding, publication venues, and support for research exists.
Occupational therapy needs to honor and own its historical professional legacy.
Occupational therapy educators need to prepare a workforce to meet health care needs in changing societies and to collaborate across disciplines and borders to address the complex needs of all people.
Occupational therapy practitioners need to consider new roles for occupational therapy and to use societal needs and historical trends to inform their arguments for these new roles.
Service to the profession and leadership at multiple levels are necessary to create change.
Doing things that one loves and that promote balance between one’s professional and personal lives can help occupational therapy practitioners accomplish great things.
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