Out of the Shadows - The Legacy of Pineland Logo

New Ideas, Dignity, and Fears

Black and white photo of an indoor swimming pool with a ramp that goes into it, and a woman pushing another woman into the pool in a wheelchair

Pineland Swimming Pool. Courtesy of New Gloucester Historical Society

Change and reform were in the air at Pineland in the 1960s and 1970s.

Superintendent Robert Bowman saw medicine, psychology, sociology, various therapies, and recreation as ways to help persons with disabilities. 

The institution reached its largest population, 1700, in the late 1950s, before falling to about 700 by the early 1970s. The two farms, which had provided food and where many residents had performed unpaid labor, closed in 1961 and 1967. Buildings were renovated programs added and a gym and swimming pool built.

Black and white photo of an indoor swimming pool with a ramp that goes into it, and a woman pushing another woman into the pool in a wheelchair
Pineland Swimming Pool. Courtesy of New Gloucester Historical Society

But Bowman, his ideas and those of staff he hired weren’t always popular – with parents, with staff, or with some officials. 

In 1969, he hired Albert Anderson Jr., a psychologist, who later became director of the state’s Bureau of Mental Retardation. Anderson introduced “normalization” – this was an emerging theory on disability that called for the acceptance of people with disabilities and giving them the same choices and conditions as other people.  Anderson later said the severely and profoundly disabled had been “treated as less than human.”

Anderson worked to change that. He trained staff and college student aides to teach toilet training, other personal hygiene, self-feeding, and other skills to even the most profoundly disabled, who also were given new clothing and shoes. One parent said her daughter learned to tie her shoes when she was 18 or 19. 

Residents had more access to speech and hearing clinics, to rehabilitation programs, to physical and occupational therapy, and to education.

Despite some new ideas and improvements, problems continued.  – many of which were highlighted in a 1973 site visit, the buildings were deteriorating and not suited to current needs, residents made few or no decisions for themselves.

Text of 1973 Report on Study of the Department of Mental Health and Corrections
1973 Report on Study of the Department of Mental Health and Corrections

Pineland, it noted, was trying to move from a medical model to a training model.

Staff, although dedicated and “with a genuine interest and concern for clients,” had little training appropriate for the changes, salaries were low, and communications between administration and staff poor.

In May of 1973, the Children’s Psychiatric Hospital at Pineland was denied Federal accreditation, putting the entire institution’s status at risk. The CPH closed shortly thereafter.

Newspaper clipping from the Lewiston Evening Journal, May 15, 1973 – Headline: CPH At Pineland Hospital Denied Accreditation
Lewiston Evening Journal, May 15, 1973

For 23 years after the legislative committee’s report, Pineland continued to change, face issues with philosophy and deteriorating buildings, and confront anxieties about it closing, as the calls for deinstitutionalization grew.

Newspaper clipping from the Lewiston Daily Sun, May 12, 1975 – Headline: Deinstitutionalization – Pineland Pushing Community Effort
Lewiston Daily Sun, May 12, 1975
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Theme Alert!



From the beginning of the institutional period, the cost of providing care for people with developmental disabilities was both the reason for building larger and larger congregate settings and an excuse for any evidence of neglect or poor treatment that came to light.

Throughout the history of Pineland you can see the frequent requests for more funding.  When Pineland was closed a new pool of money was flooded into the community.  This followed a series of cuts and the same types of pleas for additional funds that can be seen through the institutional period.

To this day, disagreements over the amount of funding put towards services plague this system. Reimbursement rates and workers’ paychecks, infrastructure and innovative care – the question of “how do we pay for this?” hangs over all the decisions made.


Values Check

Who and what do we value in our society? How do we determine someone’s “worth”, and whether they are deserving of help when they need it? Are all people really equal – and do we treat everyone as equally human?

People with developmental disabilities were sent to institutions because they were seen as useless or even dangerous to society. Their value in a place like Pineland rested on their potential for being trained to do menial labor – a Pineland resident could potentially get a furlough or even release from the institution if they could show that they could work.

In general, people with developmental disabilities throughout our history have been dismissed, patronized, and dehumanized. Doctors assumed that people with developmental disabilities didn’t feel pain, caretakers believed that they did not need friendships or hobbies or someone to communicate with, and society saw them as dangerous and unfit.

There were also people and moments in history that shifted our assumptions about the value of people with developmental disabilities – President Kennedy’s experience of loving his sister with disabilities led to huge policy shifts that impacted people with developmental disabilities across our country, and the brave self-advocates who organized a civil rights movement led directly to another president signing the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The question must be posed, what is the value of all potential members of the community, with or without disability, to the very health and fiber of the community?