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Saturday, April 25, 2009

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

Released February 2008

Reviewed by Deb Fowler

Laura was a sickly baby born to Harmony and Daniel Bridgman, but they didn’t seek out a doctor’s help because that just wasn’t done in1829. People didn’t trust doctors and to have to pay only added insult to injury. When she was an infant, she had “fits,” but these disappeared when she was almost two-years-old, but a few months later scarlet fever took the life of her two sisters, her own hearing and eyesight. She would later remember that horrible time, yet would relish the visual imagery of what came before.

She was inquisitive and quite smart. Her mother taught her to do many household chores and learned to sew and knit. “It was as if her hands and fingers could see.” Communication was quite another matter and she had very few means at her disposal other than pushing, pulling, patting and asking for a drink by putting her hand to her lips. A letter placed in a newspaper by Dr. Reuben Mussey describing Laura brought unexpected help. Samuel Gridley Howe came to Etna, New Hampshire to take her to Perkins School for the Blind where she would begin a new life, one that would astound the world.

This is a very thoughtful and carefully written biography. In recent years more people are becoming aware that there was a young woman before Helen Keller who was equally famous in her day, one of whom more children need to be made aware of. There are numerous photographs, source notes, a bibliography, an index and additional recommended websites listed in the back. This light, airy and well-done biography of Laura Bridgman is a winner!

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