Abstract

Abstract:

This article explores popular understandings of disability, work, and gender in the context of charitable employment schemes for disabled ex-servicemen after the First World War. It offers a case study of the British Legion–funded poppy factories in Richmond and Edinburgh, which employed war-disabled men to manufacture artificial flowers from 1922 onward. In so doing, this article demonstrates that press reports and charitable publications surrounding the schemes rhetorically incorporated the factories into wider twentieth-century understandings of Taylorist/Fordist productivity and manufacturing and reimagined the sites as sprawling production lines that churned out millions of flowers per year. This discourse positioned flower making as a highly skilled, masculine occupation, and relatedly constructed war-disabled flower makers as successful, productive, and physically capable workers. As one of the most publicly visible employment schemes—which catered to the most severely disabled ex-servicemen—the factories symbolized the potential of all war-disabled men for employment and went some way to challenge widespread perceptions of disabled people as idle, dependent, and useless. Moreover, this discourse represented modern, scientific methods of manufacturing as a way to make disabled bodies efficient and useful. Charitable reports positioned Taylorist/Fordist production as a solution to the problem of mass disability and ultimately countered widespread British discontent with American manufacturing ideals.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-1897
Print ISSN
0022-4529
Pages
pp. 210-236
Launched on MUSE
2021-01-29
Open Access
No
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