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Old books on left-handedness

We were recently sent the names of a couple of books that got us thinking about how things have changed and how much more positive the attitude to left-handedness is now than it was in the past.
Prevention and correction of left-handednessThe Prevention And Correction of Left-Handedness In Children by J.W. Conway was published in 1935 and we believe also had the subtitle “On Curing the Disability and Disease of Left-Handedness”.
At this time, he and others saw left-handedness as a deterrent to succeeding in the newly industrialized world.  The 39 page booklet recommended the training of children from infancy to overcome left-handedness, which came as a result of parental “indifference to the seriousness of the handicap”, which was a “sinistral condition”, a “disease” that needed to recognized along the same lines as “rickets, pneumonia and colic”.  Much needed to be done to “stamp out the newly recognized disease, the curse of left-handedness”. 
Well, that tells us!!
Another useful guide at the time (not), The Mental Sorrows of Left-Handedness (1924) by Dr. William. S. Inman was published as an article in The Lancet on the causes of left-handedness, stammer, and squint.  He concluded that all 3 are caused by emotional stress and can result from “too severe parenting”.  Also, one can become left-handed as “an unconscious revolt against authority”.
Happily this sort of thinking is not applied to our children now (although we do still hear of some pretty strange stories). We would be very interested to see the full content of these books or any others like them so if any of our members have a copy or know where to find one please do let us know by posting a comment on this article below.
Here is a link to the full article by William Inman in The Lancet in 1924
With grateful thanks to Professor Clare Porac –
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26 comments on “Old books on left-handedness
  1. David Roberts says:

    In mid-2016 Disability CanDo persuaded Caerphilly County Borough Council to let members of the public who were users of their library computer terminals reset the mouse to left-handed, after this facility had been blocked.

    So we don’t have to go back to the middle of the last century to find this discrimination.

  2. Pam Mischanko says:

    My dad was born in Pennsyvania in 1923. A new school year started, the new teacher forced him to write with his right hand. My dad started stuttering so my Grammy asked him what was going on at school, he told her. They lived down the block from the school, she marched up there madder than a wet hen. The next day my dad was back writing with his left and the stutter was gone.

    I’m 55, I went to school in Indiana. Just like my dad I went my first few years writing left handed until 4th grade. I got a teacher who would say “left handedness is a sign of laziness” and then would crack me with a ruler every time I used my left hand. Unfortunately I was one of those kids that when my parents said you “obey your elders” I did, and never told until my dad told me about himself. Oh, well I’m ambidextrous now.

  3. Dawn Plumb says:

    I’m thinking of making myself a T shirt with the slogan my left handedness is “an unconscious revolt against authority”.

  4. Karen Mader says:

    Keith I told you on August 24. Do you not read all the comments?

    • Karen Mader says:

      Brian – I just read your reply to me today Sept. 21 as I just get sent the posts sometimes and I don’t know why I don’t get them all the time. I don’t know what I said that you replied to and I don’t know what you said that you now say is rubbish but I really like your comment on Sept. 1!!!!! Thanks.

  5. Tony Baker says:

    I started school in Surrey just 10 years after the publication of this booklet.

    I wasn’t allowed to write lefthanded until I got to secondary school.
    My dad was a school teacher and I was quite advanced in writing, reading etc.

    I hated school from day 1 and still do to this day, although I spent a good part of my childhood living in them.

  6. Jon says:

    Recently read about an amazing tidbit of “history” in one of the local Sydney newspapers
    that nuns were still punishing left handed youngsters as recently as 1991!
    here in Sydney.

  7. Steve says:

    We’ve come a long way in the past ~90 years haven’t we! On a related note to this topic — My son and I wrote a book about a fictional society where lefthanded people are treated as a lesser class, even segregated. I’m a lefty (and proud of it) and I wrote independently for the left. My son is right handed and he wrote independently for the right. The book is titled ‘The Underhanded and the Right.” It is available for Kindle out on Amazon. I will send you a note when I have the next free book promo. #LeftiesRiseUp!

  8. Sandra Z. Zellick says:

    I would love to get a reprint of either or both of the books.

  9. Ike Garlington says:

    I was in first grade in 1958. I was the only left hander in the class. My teacher made note of it to the class, but not in a demeaning way. All the kids gathered around my desk to watch me write and draw with my left hand. I felt very special and liked being different. My parents and my teachers never made an effort to change me.

  10. Lou says:

    My grandfather was beaten at school until he ‘overcame his lefthandedness (he was born in 1912 and grew up in the countryside in Ireland).

    I’m a very proud leftie and my parents where very strong in their words to my school should they even think of trying to make me write with my right.

    The only problem I’ve ever had in school was when I was 7 and broke my left arm. The teacher came down really hard on me because my writing became unreadable – erm, maybe because I was writing with my right hand (durrrrr). My mum soon educated the teacher hehe.

    When I joined the army I got terrible grief off one of the training staff because I wasn’t trying hard enough when playing hockey – not one bit of consideration that the hockey stick was right handed and no other alternatives.

    I’m flabbergasted that there are still people out there that believe it is a disability…as forest gump says “stupid is as stupid does”.

  11. Paul Millette says:

    The Prevention and Correction of Left-handedness in Children – Google Books

  12. Christopher Pipe says:

    The Inman contribution will be accessible through any library that holds a long run of the Lancet (e.g., UCL): or could be ordered through interlibrary loan, or accessed by anyone with a Science Direct authorisation. The DOI is

    The Conway title looks as though it’s from the US but I can’t trace it in the Library of Congress catalogue.

  13. Cheryl Watts says:

    That is amazing. I would love that book. My mom was left handed too and she remembered teachers trying to make her right handed.

  14. Tracey says:

    My mum was born 1939 and uses her left hand, not sure if her twin was left handed but being identical I would say so. My father was right handed and so in our family 2 children are right handed , my brother was left handed and so am I. Mum never said she had any problems at school apart from seating arrangements.
    I do know the hand you use can be very strong urge as my youngest smashed his right thumb at 2 year old and he was determined to use that hand. He would use his right hand and when it was sore would go to his left hand, then back again when his hand was better. Have been told him being so determined to use his right hand strengthened his thumb. He had a steel rod in the thumb but was taken out when infection set in and they were worried about the skin graft. We live in Australia maybe using the left hand was not as bad as other countries.

    • Christa H. says:

      It is actually fairly common for identical twins to be mirror-image; on right-handed and one left-handed. They also often have opposite personalities, but not always; it depends on a variety of different factors in pre-birth development.

  15. Karen Mader says:

    Keith – I am hoping you will see this when you wake as I see it is 4 in the morning there. I really want to get your email address so I can forward the page I found when I googled to find the book. It tells about the company that has that book plus the other one you mentioned.I will not shut my computer down so that I will have the page here to send to you.

  16. Karen Mader says:

    I searched and found it. tried to send it to you. You now have a no reply email. could have sent the whole page directly. Send me your email and I can send it to you. The title is:J.F Ptak Science Books. Have the page sitting here on my computer.

  17. divine says:

    wow. And my classmate wants his baby brother to overcome RIGHT handedness. His brother is lefty, he is a lefty, and he wants the three of them to be called the LEFT brothers instead of the WRIGHT brothers.

  18. brian vaughan says:

    At my first school in the 50s. 1950s not the dark ages I had a teacher who said she would tie my left hand behind my back if I kept using it. My mother took me out of that school what a stupid ignorance fool

  19. Dr Billy Levin says:

    Ignorance is decided not “bliss”. Left handedness is genetically inherited in almost all cases. It is often linked to right brain dominance which is in itself a neurological dysfunction.(not an abnormality).We are all supposed to be left brain dominant and right handed. Some right brain dominant people have behavior problems and left brain immaturity can have learning problems. Both can be diagnosed and treated.

    • Dr Billy Levin says:

      Brian, i feel so sorry for you. You are not only ignorant but typically shoot you mouth off with no insight, typical of right brained dominance. I have 54 years experience in ADHD, a genetic neurological dysfunction, have treated over 22,000 cases, and have lectured to almost all universities in my country on this subject. Moreover I was appointed to give advice in the USA on and in the UK on on brain functon. I have been nominated by my medical association on 2 occasions for a national award for my involvement in this field. Adders have published many of my articles on this subject. If you would care to do a bit of intelligent research or even review some of my articles published internationally you might change your mind about me. By the way, I am also left handed.

  20. Linda Graham says:

    I really chuckled at our “disability or disease”. At times I really do think it is a disability, especially when I am trying to swipe a credit card in a store and I have the angle wrong to make it work. However, many, many times I have considered it a special gift that very few have. I can do some things no right-handed person would even attempt.

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