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Megan Whirley

Graduate Student


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Megan Whirley is a Ph.D. student specializing in the history of disabilities. Initially a student of biology and chemistry, Megan found herself questioning the social, cultural, and intellectual aspects of science and medicine, eventually leading her to pursue such topics through an historical perspective, and further into the realm of disabilities. In 2018 Megan received her MA in history from the College of William and Mary, where her research examined the concept and language of "disability," and its intersections with cultural notions of race and gender in nineteenth-century America. Originally from Minnesota, Megan spends as much time as possible enjoying the outdoors with her Boston Terrier, Millie.

Selected Publications

“Strength in Hope.” America’s Emerging Writers: An Anthology of Nonfiction. (December 2018). pp. 52-53. 
“Strength in Hope.” Minnesota’s Emerging Writers: An Anthology of Nonfiction. (August 2018). pp. 21-24.
“Where the Water Meets the Sky.” MiddleWestern Voice. (2014). pp. 3-9. 

Notable Honors

2016, History Senior of the Year, Elmhurst University

2015-2016, Glorianna Berger Scholarship, Elmhurst University

2014-2015, Garlichs Scholarship, Elmhurst University

2012-2016, Presidential Scholarship, Elmhurst University


M.A., History; Lyon G. Tyler Department of History, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA. 2018.
B.A., History; Elmhurst University, Elmhurst, Il. 2016.

As Teaching Assistant at UIC:
HIST 103 "Early America: From Colonization to Civil War and Reconstruction"
HIST 240 "Radicalism in America: From the Revolution to Occupy Wall Street"
HIST 104 "Modern America: From Industrialization to Globalization"

As Teaching Assistant at Elmhurst University:
HIST 351 "Disability in America"

Selected Presentations

"Corrupting the Mother Tongue//Broken Constitutions." College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA. May 2018.
"Labor Activism to Feminism." Elmhurst University Political Science Panel, Elmhurst, Il. November 2015.
"Tracing the Disability Rights Movement in America." Elmhurst University Annual Research Forum, Elmhurst, Il. May 2015.
"Conquering Language and Culture." Elmhurst University Annual Research Forum, Elmhurst, Il. May 2014.

Research Currently in Progress

Megan's current research focuses on the spectacle and exhibition of bodies. She is particularly interested in the interdependent nature of public displays of difference, the development of scientific theories, and the efforts to define normative body standards of ability, health, intelligence, and beauty. While much of her research is based in nineteenth-century America, Megan is working to widen her scope both geographically and temporally through a comparative approach.

Research interests: History of disabilities; history of science and medicine; Native American history; histories of race, gender and sexuality; religious history; intellectual history; immigration