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An Answer

Creator: n/a
Date: Circa 1903
Source: Perkins School for the Blind

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To many questions by many questioners


WITH variations in spirit and in force, the queries are, in substance: "Where did this start? and how? What have you done? What are you doing? What do you want to do? What need is there for it? Please tell me all about it." To tell "all" would require a quarto. This short letter will attempt to tell a little. "It" started in the Women's Educational and Industrial Union of Boston by one committee's trying to read to those who could not read for themselves and had no one to read to them. The committee had no knowledge of the blind, and were ignorant of their large number and of their sad condition in the state. One step firmly taken compels another, and the work moved on. It was soon learned why the blind could not come together for the readings.


As fast as possible with the small number of workers visits were made to them, wherever they could be found, and to find them was not the least in the list of difficulties. By correspondence, by printed matter, and by direct interviews with instructors of the adult blind, conditions and methods in our own and in other countries were gradually learned.


At the Mechanics' Fair in 1902 a section was devoted to this new movement. Under the inspiring portrait of Dr. Howe a young blind woman did various kinds of work, which was sold, with that of other blind persons, and orders were taken. For six weeks the story of the pitiful need of the adult blind was told, and a booklet, written by a blind man, was given to the passing thousands. A lecture called one of the largest audiences seen in the lecture hall during the Fair, including blind from distant towns. Excellent music was donated for the occasion.


At the close of the Fair a home-teacher was employed, principally to teach reading and writing, but when it was desired, knitting and crocheting. It was found that with the Moon type those of advanced age or with calloused fingers could learn to read, and thus gain a new interest in life.


Reports of Industrial Institutions in different countries were still collected, read, and loaned. Names and addresses of the blind were laboriously secured. Through the co-operation of the Federation of Women's Clubs a systematic canvassing of the state was begun, with intent to carry neighborliness and reading to the lonely and the unbusy, the shut-ins in body and in mind.


To the legislature of 1902-1903, a petition was presented asking that a commission be appointed for investigating the condition of the adult blind throughout Massachusetts. This petition was unanimously recommended by each legislative committee before which it passed on its way to the Governor. The commission was appointed, and their report and suggestions are expected on January 15, 1904.


In the meantime the State Association has been organized to carry forward the work begun by one small committee. An agent is employed to lecture throughout the state, and in all possible ways to further the purpose of the Association. An office has been opened in No. 120 Boylston Street, Boston, where the sightless who need help and the sighted who need to give help are welcomed.


As fast and as far as possible individuals are being helped to work and to a market, but the great number are yet waiting. The need is money. The Association decides first to help the able-bodied, who should be at work, both for their own good and for the state's good. At present Massachusetts will give to the blind pauper who has no legal town-claim, a refuge in the Hospital at Tewksbury; but if he wishes instead to learn a trade that he may earn his own board and lodging there is no chance for him. It is singular, in a state ambitious of leadership along humane lines, that the industriously-inclined blind have no door of hope open to them. The spirit shown last winter at the State House indicates an early correction of this heretofore-unconscious neglect.


There is a higher plane than material independence on which the claim may be pressed. Those who attended the convention of the N. E. A. in last June, or who read reports of the strongest speeches, must have noted the insistence on hand work for development of the brain and the conscience. Industrial training -- a preparation for good citizenship. The Commonwealth has about four thousand handicapped by partial or total blindness, of whom eighty-six per cent. are over twenty-one years old. Only a small number are able to push their way to success as can the seeing. They must be helped to help themselves. Not only the individual welfare but political economy sustains our plea.


Massachusetts is noted for its generous response to human needs. Surely the Association for Promoting the Interests of the Adult Blind has but to be known and the needed funds for its important work will be provided.


The following is a list of officers of the Association:




Rev. Daniel D. Addison, D.D.
Rev. Charles G. Ames
Thomas M. Balliet, Ph.D.
Mr. Elisha Converse
Mrs. Elisha Converse
Rev. Charles F. Dole
Rev. Edward K Hale, D.D.
Hon. George F. Hoar
Rev. George Hodges, D.D.
Mrs. Julia Ward Howe
Miss Helen Keller
Rt. Rev. William Lawrence, D.D.
Mrs. Mary A. Livermore
Hon. Samuel W. McCall
Hon. William H. Moody
Rev. Philip S. Moxom
Rev. Leighton Parks, D.D.
Miss Anne Whitney
Hon. Carroll D. Wright

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