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Deaf History That: Laura Bridgman

5 minutes

The story of how Deaf-Blind education began in America starts with a woman whose name was Laura Bridgman. She was born in New Hampshire to a father who was a Baptist preacher. When she was born, she was a sickly baby. Her body was weak, and the bones were brittle. In a little while, the whole family became sick, but she became deaf and blind from that ordeal, including her sense of smell and taste. She eventually recovered, but her sense of sight and hearing didnt. While she was growing up, her family didnt know what to do with her education until one day, a person mentioned perhaps they could take her to Boston, where they have a school for blind children. So the family invited Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe from that school to meet Laura. He noticed that she was intelligent, and that she was able to set a table and sew. A decision was made to bring her to the school in Boston. After she arrived at the school, Laura became homesick and wanted to go back home, but she learned to adapt and enjoyed learning. The school made cut outs of letters and labeled objects, so she could feel the words. She also learned how to sign her name. One day, Charles Dickens, the famous English author, came and visited Laura. He was greatly impressed with her and wrote about her. This made her famous, and thousands of people came to see her. On Saturdays, the school would open its doors to the public, and people would come to watch her using the raised letters on the map, correctly identifying locations on a map, in response to people inquiring where a specific place was. People would ask to keep as keepsakes things that she had made. Years later, she had completed her education, but the question was raised, where would she live? Through people's contributions, she was able to live at the school, which was known as Perkins, and she stayed there for the rest of her life. She did go back home to her family briefly, but returned to the school. She made her income by selling what she made by sewing, knitting, and hand-crafting other items, such as handkerchiefs. Through such sales, she earned $100 a year, which was enough to support herself. The school, which was now the Perkins Institution for the Blind, then added campus cottages, which Laura moved into and lived. A young lady, Anne Sullivan, who later became a famous teacher for the Deaf-Blind, moved into Perkins and lived with Laura for a short while. When Laura became 59 years old, she became physically sick, and her health deteriorated until she died. Now we know the story behind the beginning of Deaf-Blind education in America, thanks to Laura Bridgman. Accessibility provided by the U.S. Department of Education.

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The story of how deaf-blind education began in America starts with a woman named Laura Bridgman. After a sickness left her deaf and blind, her family took her to Boston to Perkins School for the Blind. The school made cutouts of letters and labeled objects so she could feel the words, and she learned how to sign her name. Part of the “Deaf History That” series.

Media Details

Runtime: 5 minutes

Deaf History That
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