There seems to be a strong trend, particularly in 19th century literature, of portraying disabled women as so saintly that few readers can actually stand them. Sometimes the author seems to be despising the character too, sometimes they seem to be terribly fond of them and not have realised that no one else is. A lot of these characters die. Here are a few, with basic descriptions so this is vaguely spoilerish. And also rather vague in cases where I've not read the book in years.
Aldcott, Little Women - Beth, who is shy and sweet and gets, erm, scarlet fever or something, contracted after the family nobly visited a poor family who was ill. Though she pills through and then dies a few years later, having become an invalid in the meantime, and wasted away quietly and piously. Never gets a love life or shows the slightest interest in boys. I think she tends to be the one who plays the piano for the family on social occasions - there's a definite "serving others" motif here. Overtly religious.
Richardson, Clarissa - Clarissa, who undergoes a variety of really horrible things, including imprisonment and drug-rape. She is also beautiful, generous, kind to the poor, self-sacrificing, obsessed with being a virtuous woman, and apparently rises at 6 for a punishing schedule of embroidery, theological reflection and so forth. The 18th century didn't describe illnesses the way we do, but she's clearly meant to undergo some kind of temporary breakdown after the rape, and shows classic signs of Stockholm Syndrome and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, before dying of anorexia. So this one's a study in mental illness, which tends to be harder to do alongside the whole saintly thing. Apparently he felt that he couldn't show her as committing suicide, that wasn't suitably Christian. You can read Clarissa as becoming closer and closer to God, with Christ-like whatsits, and many have, though I consider it rather a surface reading. Or you can read her as going "batshit crazy", to quote poisoninjest, and realise that stopping eating, not changing your clothes for months on end, and pre-ordering your coffin, covered with elaborate motifs (she says something like, "Well, I'm used to designing embroidery, I suppose I got a bit carried away"), and using it as a desk are signs not of holiness but of a distressing level of mental illness. Definitely overtly religious.
Coolidge, What Katy Did - Not the main disabled character, but Cousin Helen, who is long-term disabled and is held up as a paragon of virtue for Katy to emulate. She can't walk, as I recall, and is carried about by male family members as necessary when brought on a visit. Apparently she nobly gave up the man she loved so that he could marry someone else (going from someone else's description here, it's been a while). I can't remember this one too well - something about the importance of being sweet-tempered, shutting up when dealing with pain, and looking dainty for the benefit of all those around you. (OK, and for yourself, but an awful lot of this seems to be about fading politely into the background and not being a trouble to non-disabled folks.) Katy takes on a career as fourteen-year-old housekeeper, kept in one room, after learning from Cousin Helen, but at least Katy gets to recover. Though I've a nasty feeling this is a "boisterous woman tamed by disability" story. Can't remember if religion comes up, but it wouldn't surprise me.
Mitchell, Gone With The Wind - Melanie Wilkes, who is chronically ill and weak but it's never explained what with. ME or CFS are a possibility. She is sweet, generous, hard-working (at one point she picks cotton in the fields, which the other ladies have objected to doing, until quietly fainting), and makes a total of one bitchy comment in the entire novel. She nearly dies in childbirth with her first child, is told she can't have more children (effectively putting a stop to her sex life - apparently non-penetrative sex didn't exist in this universe), and eventually does get pregnant and then dies of a miscarriage. She serves as sister-in-law, foil and rival to Scarlett, who is most determinedly not a Good Girl, and there's a love-hate thing going on between them, at least from Scarlett's point of view. Pretty much desexualised, although this is a very strange novel on the topic of sexuality anyway. Another Good Christian Woman.
Austen, Mansfield Park - Fanny Price, the main protagonist. Austen loved her but readers have been less keen. Probably ME, or at least some fatigue-based illness. She's not so much good as put-upon, a bit of a Cinderella story, although she does make the odd moral stand (mainly by disapproving of amateur theatricals) and is generally well-behaved, particularly when compared to the other characters, who are bitchy, selfish, even commit adultery in one case, and generally a lot more fun. She does get a man, mainly by waiting patiently until he decides the more exciting Mary Crawford isn't virtuous enough for him, but that's all rather weird and incesty. In real life I would be sympathetic to Fanny having to run errands for her Aunt Norris until she wilts with heatstroke, but in a novel, well, you just want to scream at her to say no to someone for once in her life, poor relation status or no. I can't remember how religious she is, but she's contrasted with the others being irreligious, and ends up marrying a parson.
Two of these have massive lesbian subtext, and one has minor, although I don't know to what extent that's related to the whole disabled-good-woman trope, and indeed how far the authors were even aware of it. There are certainly strong issues about disabled women being held away from mainstream sexuality. There's also a strong whiff of Inspiration Porn going on with most of these.
- Good Women