In 1832, three-year-old Laura Bridgman and her two sisters were stricken with scarlet fever. In those days, there were no antiobotics or fever reducing medicines. Laura’s two sisters died. Laura’s fever lasted for many weeks and left her blind, deaf and without her senses of taste and smell. The only sense Laura had left was touch. Like Helen Keller, who was born many years later, Laura was often frustrated and threw temper tantrums, angry about her inability to make other people understand what she wanted.
Luckily, a man named Samuel Howe was at the same time opening a school for the blind and figuring out ways to help deaf and blind children learn. (It later became the Perkins School for the Blind.) Laura went to live at Mr. Howe’s school and he was able to teach her to read and write. Laura became famous. The English writer Charles Dickens even came to visit her and included a story about her in his book American Notes. 40 years later, Helen Keller’s mother read that book by Charles Dickens and realized that her daughter Helen cold be helped! Can you imagine her reaction when she was reading, realizing that there was another girl like Helen who had learned to read!
It was Laura Bridgman who taught Annie Sullivan how to fingerspell. Annie Sullian became Helen Keller’s teacher. I never knew there were deaf and blind students before Helen Keller that could communicate like her. It was Laura, not Helen, that was the very first deaf and blind student to learn to read and write.
It is hard to even imagine…living in silence and darkness…and then having someone teach you how to share your thoughts with others. What a miracle! In the biography below Helen talks about what it was like to learn how to read…and then what it felt like to go to the Perkins School for the blind and meet other blind children who could also fingerspell…she had friends for the very first time. Cool! Author: Sally Hobart Alexander
So, it was Mr. Samuel Howe who worked with Laura and taught her how to fingerspell. Laura taught Anne and Anne taught Helen. It all started with Mr. Howe. His methods are still used today to teach deaf and blind students how to read and write. Now that’s one guy who made a big difference.Print This Post