James M. Boles Shares Institution and Disability History of Niagara County
Presentation at Niagara County Historical Society Includes Book Signing
James M. Boles, Ed.D., president and chief executive officer of People Inc., Western New York’s largest health and human services agency, will share his research for his latest book, “When There Were Poorhouses, Early Care in Rural New York, 1808-1950,” on Thursday, April 26, at 2 p.m. The presentation and book signing will be held at the Niagara County Historical Society, 215 Niagara Street in Lockport. Boles’ main interests include local history, the history of disabilities and research.
To prevent them from slipping into the void of abandoned history, this book describes the institutions – some highly visible and others lesser known in and near Niagara county – that provided some of the earliest organized care for the blind, deaf, sick, disabled, insane and destitute.
Niagara County, a rural county of New York State, serves as a historical model for study of the various institutions: the poorhouses, almshouses, sanatoriums, asylums, orphanages, pest houses, widows houses, hospitals, and special schools in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
The book indicates that society’s predecessors, however harsh and out-moded their care seems now, labored under and along with societal attitudes that mandated a sense of responsibility toward the needy in their midst. Their early efforts provided a foundation for many of the programs in New York State that offer progressive services to its citizens today.
“Working in the human services field for over 40 years, I saw many changes. Realizing that there was a reluctance to look into the past care which took place in the institutions that served the sick and disabled, I developed an interest in preserving this history,” shared Boles.
Boles, who grew up in Lockport and current resident of Snyder, attended Columbia University in New York to earn a Doctor of Education degree and Master of Education degree specializing in Family and Community Relations. In 1981, Boles started working for People Inc. and is currently responsible for the overall administration, which has grown to 2,800 staff and serving more than 10,000 individuals. Boles is also the founder of the Museum of disABILITY History, located at 3826 Main Street in Buffalo.
In May 2006, Boles was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve as an advisory committee member on the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. In 2011, he received the Hervey B. Wilbur Preservation Award from the American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities for his work in establishing the Museum of disABILITY History.
The Museum of disABILITY History, a project of People Inc., is dedicated to the collection, preservation, and display of artifacts relating to the history of people with disabilities. The mission is to tell the story of the lives, triumphs, and struggles of people with disabilities as well as society’s reactions. The Museum of disABILITY History offers educational exhibits and activities that expand community awareness.
People Inc. is a not-for-profit health and human services agency providing programs and services to more than 10,000 people with special needs, their families, and seniors throughout Western New York. Since 1971, People Inc. has assisted individuals to achieve greater degrees of independence and productivity.