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Helen Keller Opens Shop For Blind

Creator: n/a
Date: August 8, 1908
Publication: Boston Globe
Source: Perkins School for the Blind

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MANCHESTER, July 6 -- The beautiful little village green in the center of this quaint old town and fashionable summer resort was the scene of an unusually picturesque and impressive exercise this afternoon when Helen Keller, the wonderful blind girl, formally opened, in a very choice little address, the handicraft shop for the blind which has been located in an old, one-story, wooden building on the edge of the green.


Miss Keller and her teacher, Mrs Macy, were of course the main attractions and the 200 or more people who were present on the green when Miss Keller delivered her address from the porch of the little shop will not soon forget the expressive face of the blind girl as she spoke, nor the joy with which her features were lighted. She fairly quivered as she proceeded, for she was highly sensible of the importance of the moment and she probably felt that her words would bring somewhat of joy to the 4000 blind persons in this state as well as those who are blind everywhere.


Her words could be heard at a distance of about a half dozen feet, but at the end of each sentence Mrs Macy, who held Helen's arm, repeated the words so that all could hear them. Mrs Macy's face as she spoke seemed to reflect every slightest expression that passed over the mobile countenance of Helen Keller. She is equally as wonderful as Helen, seeming to complement everything in the deaf and dumb girl's nature.


It was a great day for Helen Keller, and in a way it was a great event for the blind everywhere, for the opening, of this picturesque little shop is one of the beginnings of the movement instituted first by the Perkins institution for the blind, but broadened in its scope by the commission for the blind, appointed by the state two years ago, to work out the problem of teaching the blind people of the state some of the useful handicrafts by which they might become self-supporting. Massachusetts is the first state to undertake such a beneficent work, and the results here are being carefully watched by all interested in the blind everywhere.


Already much progress has been made in this direction, and the kinds of handicrafts which some of the blind people have been taught and which they do with a skill that is simply amazing, is an assurance to the blind everywhere that their lives need not be wasted. When one sees some of these blind young women weaving on hand looms and working out designs in the warp and woof, apparently without difficulty, it then seems as if nothing were impossible to them.


In this little shop at Manchester today sat a blind girl at her loom working as skilfully as if she had sight. But perhaps, after all, even more wonderful was to see Helen Keller standing nearby, the center of a little crowd, talking with her lips to those about her, while her teacher telegraphed with her fingers on the palm of Helen's hand what was being said by those to whom she was talking. It Is a revelation of the latent possibilities of human life that can be brought out and developed by intelligent sympathy. As Fr Powers of the Sacred Heart church, who was present at the exercises, said afterward:


"It seems as though the Lord had intensified the powers of her remaining senses to make up for those of which she had been deprived."


The work displayed in this little shop, much of which has been done at the two shops which have been instituted in Cambridge by the Commission and one shop in Boston, is of a very high order. There was work from the hand looms, such as towels, table coverings, napkins and various other fabrics with original designs woven into them that give them a distinctive character; there was knitted and machine work, hand woven rugs and art fabrics for summer furnishings.


Besides these there are the articles which have been made in the Perkins Institution for years -- hair matresses, feather pillows, hair pillows, feather beds, brass and enameled iron bed-steads and other things. Everything that is done by these blind people is well done.


This shop in Manchester, if it is a success, will undoubtedly be the forerunner of similar shops at various places along the coast where people of means congregate in the summer time, but they will be merely offshoots of the shops in Cambridge and Boston established by the commission, and of the great Perkins institution, which is working in hearty cooperation with the state commission. However, this shop In Manchester has been established because of the interest which Mrs William Hooper of Boston, and one of the wealthy summer residents of this place, has long taken in the welfare of the blind. It is primarily due to her that the shop here has been started, although L. W. Floyd, who gave the use of the old building, should not be forgotten.


All those present at the opening exercises today regretted that Mrs Hooper was confined to her home because of a slight indisposition and could not be present, but her husband. William Hooper, treasurer of the Boston elevated railway, was present, and was very busy throughout the day at the little shop. They are the sponsors of the shop, and about everybody else in town, is expected to be the patrons.

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