(May 24, 1894-Mar. 31, 1982). An early occupational therapist and an influential champion for the professionalization of the profession in Indiana and nationwide, Winifred Conrick Kahmann was born and grew up in Dedham, Massachusetts. She studied at Devereaux Mansion in Marblehead, Massachusetts, a hospital that had one of the earliest educational programs in occupational therapy. She moved to St. Louis in 1917 and developed the first occupational therapy department in that city at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. She planned and built the St. Louis School of Occupational Therapy, one of the nation’s first five schools in occupational therapy, which later became part of Washington University.

Occupational Therapy Workshop at Riley Hospital for Children, 1924 Credit: Indiana University Indianapolis View Source

Kahmann, “a woman of steel – and zeal,” came to Indianapolis in 1924 to build one of Indiana’s first occupational therapy programs at the new James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children. The Junior League Of Indianapolis hired her as inaugural head of the Occupational Therapy Clinic. During her 35-year career, the Occupational Therapy Department at Riley Hospital For Children became one of the country’s best-known occupational therapy programs.

As Chief of the Occupational Therapy Branch of the Office of the Reconditioning Division of the Office of the Surgeon General, United States Army from 1943 to 1946, Kahmann recruited, educated, and assigned 900 occupational therapists and also had charge of some 82 hospitals across the country.

During her service from 1947-1952, as the first occupational therapy professional to be elected president of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), the American Journal Of Occupational Therapy began and annual conferences resumed. In Indiana, she was president and one of the Indiana Occupational Therapy Association’s founders.

Kahmann, a 1952 recipient of AOTA’s Award of Merit, also was recognized during AOTA’s 2017 centennial year as one of the occupational therapy profession’s 100 most influential people. She retired in 1959 and died at the age of 87 in Port Charlotte, Florida.

Revised March 2021

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