This inquiry aims to explore the understandings of patient, therapist, and occupation held by the founders of the National Society for the Promotion of Occupational Therapy. Influenced by contemporary historical events, the founders shared a common belief that the right occupation could help persons in need. Personal narratives found within the early occupational therapy literature illustrate each founder’s unique understanding of how occupation might address contemporary problems. Each view contributed to the development of a multifaceted therapy. Exploration of the multiple interpretations that shaped a common idea may help current therapists to better understand their heritage of caring and to compare it with current practices. The first part of this inquiry considers the personal narratives of George Edward Barton, Susan Elizabeth Tracy, and William Rush Dunton, Jr. The second part, which will appear in a later issue, will further discuss Dunton’s views, along with those of Eleanor Clarke Slagle, Herbert Hall, Susan Cox Johnson, and Thomas Bessell Kidner.

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