Eleanor Clarke Slagle is known as the mother of occupational therapy. She began her studies at the Chicago School for Civics and Philanthropy in 1911, but became interested in occupational therapy while she was visiting the Kankakee State Hospital.
In 1912, she founded the department of occupational therapy at Johns Hopkins University. She worked to promote the idea of occupational therapy and before this, people working in healthcare did not take occupational therapy seriously. Because of her efforts, the medical community began to see the benefits of occupational therapy and a new career was born.
Slagle was one of the founding members of the National Society for the Promotion of Occupational Therapy. During the annual meeting of the NSOC (later named the American Occupational Therapy Association), Slagle was named as the organization’s first female president, later serving as the organization’s secretary.
During her career, she helped train over 4000 occupational therapists. Many of her patients were mentally ill and she used ‘habit training’ to help engage them. She worked as occupational therapy director at the New York State Department of Mental Hygiene and spent 20 years there helping people.
Today, the American Occupational Therapy Association gives out the Eleanor Clarke Slagle Lectureship Award. The award is considered the highest academic award the organization gives out.