Michael J. Dowling School

Growing up, many of us lived in close proximity to the Michael J. Dowling School for Crippled Children--now an Urban Environmental Magnet School for the Minneapolis School District.  Those of us living close to the school witnessed ambulances bringing polio patients to the school during the 1950's polio epidemic, leaving us with a lasting impression of the horrors of the disease. 
This entry prompted Doug Butler to write: 
I was one of those kids who grew up near you and Dowling school. Sheltering Arms was near by too. While a student at the U of M, I worked partime as a swimming instructor at Dowling (1961 and '2 I think). My entire career involved working for and with people who were disabled. It all started when Toy Jambeck invited me to work with him at Camp Courage (summer 1957). Incidently, I knew and did some work with Luther Grandquist during the late '70's. He was an enthusiastic outspoken legal advocate for the rights of the disabled.  Thanks for triggering the memories.   Doug Butler
On November 30, 2016, I received the following message from a former student at Dowling!   An amazing story of a life fulfilled through education and rehabilitation!
 Success story:
My name is Jean. I attended the above school from age 2, 1954 to age 8, 1960. My father was stationed Air Force in Minnesota then.  We lived in Minneapolis. I was taught to walk, speech therapy, eat, learned daily living skills, and special education.  Why did I leave? My dad got transferred to Japan. I was mainstreamed in 1960 in public school on base schools.
Shocked & teased. Well, to make a long story short, I successfully finished schooling, went to college here in California.  I learned to drive, I married, worked for 40 years and looking forward to retirement 12/30/16 from the State of California DMV.

Below you will find some interesting information of Michael J. Dowling and the role he played in the Twin Cities and in the education of students with physical disabilities.
Michael J. Dowling was a Pioneer in Disability Rights in Minnesota
by Luther Granquist
 February 10th, 2010
The 1880 census report for Wergeland Township in Yellow Medicine County gave 14-year-old Mike Dowling’s occupation as “herding cattle.” Although he was listed with the Isaac Anderson family who farmed just northeast of the town of Porter, Dowling worked for himself, as he had done since his mother died when he was 10. At that time, Dowling moved with his father from Massachusetts to St. Louis and Chicago. Then on his own he went to work as a cook in a lumber camp in Wisconsin, on steamboats between St. Paul and St.Louis, as a water carrier on a farm in Cottage Grove and as a “kid cowboy” on a ranch in Wyoming.


During the summer of 1880 he collected a herd of more than 500 head of cattle from farmers in the Canby area by agreeing to care for them on the open range and to deliver them back to their owners on Oct. 15 for$1.50 a head.  He did so successfully despite a sleet and ice storm that struck on Oct. 14 and killed cattle in other herds in the area.
Dowling was not so lucky on Dec. 4, 1880. He hitched a ride with two farmers on the back of a lumber wagon to go from Canby to the farm where he kept his pony. They encountered a sudden blizzard, and the horses veered into a plowed field. Dowling was thrown from the wagon, which continued on in the howling storm. 
After the blizzard cleared the next morning, Dowling struggled to a farm house on frozen legs and with frozen arms. Sixteen days later three doctors amputated both of his legs and one arm. Three years later he convinced the Yellow Medicine County commissioners that they should provide him two terms at Carlton College rather than pay a local farmer $2 per week to take care of him. The youthful cook, cowboy, and cattle herder became a school teacher, a school superintendent, a member of the Minnesota Legislature, a newspaper publisher and the president of a bank.
In 1921 he spearheaded a successful effort by Rotarians to add “crippled children” to the law providing state aid for school districts which chose to serve children withdisabilities. Michael J. Dowling School for Crippled Children in Minneapolis was named for him.  The school was erected in 1924 and added additions in 1936, 1961 and a  garage in1950.

Michael Dowling, shown lower left after his
accident and above right with his prosthetic
legs and arm.
Who Was Michael Dowling?

Michael Dowling was an educator and legislator who succeeded in having the first bill passed providing state aid for handicapped children in 1919. Being handicapped himself, Mr. Dowling realized the importance of equal access to education for all people. 

The land for Dowling School was actually donated in 1920 by William Henry Eustis, a former Minneapolis mayor and realtor. 

From a Sept. 2002 article in the Star Tribune:

And Michael Dowling went from school principal, bank president and mayor of Olivia to speaker of the Minnesota House, a national Republican leader and organizer of the Philippines' educational system -- all despite having lost both legs, his left arm and the fingers of his right hand in an 1880 snowstorm when he was 14.

As a young man, Dowling went to the county welfare board and promised never to be a ward of the state if the county would provide him with artificial limbs and send him to college. After World War I, he traveled to military hospitals to talk with veterans who had lost limbs, urging them not to think their lives were over.

In "The Things We Know Best," the 1976 local history edited by Minnesota poet Joe Paddock, a woman who knew Dowling said he laughed off his handicaps. His favorite story was about the Minneapolis bellhop who, at his request, helped him get ready for bed one night. "Take off my leg," Dowling said, and the bellhop did. Then the other leg, then the arm. "Now, take my head off," he said, and the frantic bellhop ran from the room.

Dowling Rich History
Franklin D. Roosevelt
154 - Remarks at the Dowling School for Crippled Children, Minneapolis, Minn.
October 9, 1936

THIS welcome that you children have given me reminds me very much of the welcome that the children give me down in Warm Springs, Georgia. Down there, as up here, there are a lot of them in wheel-chairs and a lot of them with crutches and a lot of them with arm-rests, but they have the same kind of cheerful faces you have.

I am glad the Federal Government has been able to help the School of Minneapolis, especially in building the swimming pool. I hope that all of you will be able to learn to swim, because that is about the only exercise I can take, and I know how much you will enjoy it if you learn.

It is fine to come here today. I am glad to see all of you. I wish I could go through the School and see the work you are doing. Some day I know that I shall be able to come and have the time to see all that you are doing.