She Touched the World: Laura Bridgman, Deaf-Blind Pioneer by Sally Hobart Alexander and Robert Alexander

She Touched the WorldYou all know the story of Helen Keller, a deaf-blind girl who learned to speak and read and became a household name for her accomplishments. However, if it were not for a little girl in New Hampshire by the name of Laura Bridgman, Helen Keller would have just been another child with a disability lost to the outside world.

You have probably never heard of Laura Bridgman, but you will really want to! She was born in 1829 and contacted scarlet fever at age 2. Upon recovery, she was left both blind and deaf, and with weakened senses of smell and taste, too. She had been a bright and inquisitive child before her illness and her parents tried to include her in their everyday life as much as possible. She had an amazing sense of touch and learned to identify people, sew and knit simply with her fingertips, but her family wanted more for her. Laura was soon discovered by doctors and educators and enrolled at the Perkins Institute for the Blind under the tutelage of Dr. Samuel Howe. At the Institute, Laura was a star pupil and later, teacher (one student was named Anne Sullivan!). She learned to read, write, do math and fingerspell (sign language and teaching the Deaf to speak not yet being in fashion) at a time when everyone thought that a person with such disabilities could only ever be a burden.

But Laura proved them wrong. People across the US and even Europe knew her name and what people with physical disabilities could accomplish if only given the chance. She stayed with Perkins for most of her life and was even written about by Charles Dickens. And it was this account of her name and accomplishments that Kate Keller, a mother in Alabama in the late 1880s, read and wondered if Perkins Institute’s teachers could help her young deaf-blind daughter Helen. And the rest you know!

Posted by: Cindy

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