Ora Ruggles: Queen of Struggles

I’ve heard about Ora Ruggles for several months now, in introductory OT textbooks. I was instantly intrigued by the fascinating stories I read about her. She was one of the first reconstruction aides after WW1, and was a pioneer in OT. Her biography was written by John Carlova and is called The Healing Heart. That’s based on her famous line, about how you must reach for the heart, as well as the hands, for it is the heart that does the healing.

I’ve tried to get my hands on this book, but apparently it is out of print and it costs about $60. I was thrilled to discover my local major library had it. I read the book in a single day because it was so great. In fact, the 2005 Slagle lecturer, Suzanne Peloquin, wrote an article on how Ora Ruggles exemplified the trait of empathy (as mostly evidenced by this biography), which is a trait all OTs should strive for.

It turns out Ora was a tomboy who had a rough life. Her father died of sugar diabetes, her mother had a stroke that left her hemiplegic for a long time. One of her sisters was deaf from whooping cough. Ora ended up becoming an incredible reconstruction aide working in various asylums and institutions in different parts of the US. She basically helped shape OT into what it is today. She even knew Eleanor Clarke Slagle personally, and apparently they butted heads a lot! She had a strong artistic knack as well as ingenuity, imagination, and compassion. And of course, intelligence!

Two stories in the book that made me laugh:

1) She and a bunch of other reconstruction aides, who were all young single females, ended up dating soldiers they were working with. One time, she and several other aides went out with their boyfriends to meet their parents, and one of the moms fainted, because every single one of those soldier boyfriends was missing at least one limb!

2) She talked about teaching men how to “rake knit”, a more masculine form of knitting. The aides gave them bright red yarn for its attention-getting properties. These men would knit and knit and knit to stay occupied, making very long scarves. They’d be proud of them and send them to their wives and girlfriends and mothers, so in 1919, in many cities across America, you’d see women wearing long red scarves that were often dragging on the ground, because these soldiers had made them in OT.

So I totally recommend this book, and wish it would STOP being out of print because I think it should be required reading in every OT school across the nation!

One of my long-term goals is to eventually own this book. 🙂

What books do you all recommend to all future OTs??????

May 17, 2007 | Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: 5