She Touched the World: Laura Bridgman, Deaf-Blind Pioneer

by Sally Alexander, Robert Alexander

When she was just two years old, Laura Bridgman lost her sight, her hearing, and most of her senses of smell and taste. At the time, no one believed a child with such severe disabilities could be taught to communicate, much less lead a full and productive life. But then a progressive doctor, who had just opened the country’s first school for the blind in Boston, took her in. Laura learned to communicate, read, and write—and eventually even to teach. By the age of 12, she was world famous.

Audiences flocked to see her, and she was loved and admired by children everywhere. This fascinating and moving biography shows how Laura Bridgman paved the way for future generations of children with disabilities, making possible important advances in the way they would be educated. As a blind person with some hearing loss, Sally Hobart Alexander lends a unique and intimate perspective to this inspiring account. At last, the story of Laura Bridgman can find its long-deserved place alongside those of Louis Braille and Helen Keller.

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN-13/ EAN: 9780618852994
  • ISBN-10: 0618852999
  • Pages: 112
  • Publication Date: 02/18/2008
  • Carton Quantity: 28
About the Book
About the Authors
Reviews
  • About the Book
    When she was just two years old, Laura Bridgman lost her sight, her hearing, and most of her senses of smell and taste. At the time, no one believed a child with such severe disabilities could be taught to communicate, much less lead a full and productive life. But then a progressive doctor, who had just opened the country’s first school for the blind in Boston, took her in. Laura learned to communicate, read, and write—and eventually even to teach. By the age of 12, she was world famous.

    Audiences flocked to see her, and she was loved and admired by children everywhere. This fascinating and moving biography shows how Laura Bridgman paved the way for future generations of children with disabilities, making possible important advances in the way they would be educated. As a blind person with some hearing loss, Sally Hobart Alexander lends a unique and intimate perspective to this inspiring account. At last, the story of Laura Bridgman can find its long-deserved place alongside those of Louis Braille and Helen Keller.

  • About the Author
  • Excerpts
  • Reviews
    "In the early 1840s, Bridgman was known throughout the world for her educational accomplishments despite her disabilities.  Yet she would be so overshadowed by Helen Keller 50 years later that it is now impossible to mention her without drawing comparisons to Keller.  In fact, Bridgman's education, undertaken by Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe of the New England Institution for the Education of the Blind, laid the foundation for Keller's accomplishments (Bridgman taught Annie Sullivan how to fingerspell), and for the education of Deaf-Blind children even today.  The authors of this meticulously researched biography convey Bridgman's world of touch and sensation in terms children will understand: "The sun was heat on her face....Mountains were sloped, uneven paths to climb."  Details such as the child's daily school schedule allow readers to connect her story with their own lives.  Photos and illustrations of unfamiliar historical objects give context throughout, as does the authors' explanation of period medical studies such as phrenology.  Only one detail causes concern: In a caption about the debate over whether to use sign language with children, the authors correctly note that it was "denounced as crude pantomime," yet fail to mention that American Sign Language has since been proven to contain all of the grammar and linguistic structures that spoken languages have.  The length, "If Laura Were Alive Today," describes the medical and technological advances that affect Deaf-Blind individuals today by introducing Deaf-Blind coauthor Sally Hobart Alexander."--School Library Journal, starred review
     
    "The first full-lenght new biography of Bridgman for young readers since Edith F. Hunter's Child of the Silent Night (1963) offers a salutary reminder that Helen Keller wasn't the only, or even first, woman to prove that deafness and blindness are not unsurpassable obstacles to becoming a functional member of society.  Though a still-undiagnosed childhood disease left her with only her hands for a sense organ and "an endless curiosity," Bridgman responded so well to the efforts of her early educator Samuel Gridley Howe, head of the first school for blind children in America, that she became an international celebrity in the 1840s.  This provided evidence for the startling new idea that disabled, even multiply disabled, people could be intelligent, educable, and productive.  The authors (one of whom is blind and partially deaf herself) cap their profile with a long afterword analyzing the changes of attitude that Bridgman helped to spark, and describing modern support systems for disabled people.  Illustrated with period photos and prints, and supported by extensive notes and resource lists, this will be a valuable and long-overdue addition to library shelves."--Kirkus Reviews, starred review
     
    "At the age of three, in 1832, Laura Bridgman contracted scarlet fever and lost her sight, her hearing, her sense of smell, and much of her sense of taste.  Her family sent her to Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe at the New England Institute for the Education of the Blind, and by the age of 10, Laura was world-famous for her accomplishments (with admirers ranging from Charles Dickens to Dorothea Dix), and also a success story for Howe's teaching methods.  Alexander, known for books about her own experiences as a blind person, presents a well-written and thoroughly researched biography of this remarkable woman, with numerous black-and-white photos (quality was hard to determine in the galley).  There's little available on Bridgman for young readers, so this will be a welcome addition to many collections.  An appended listing of Web sites and books will lead readers on to more."--Booklist
     
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