Woman of the Century/Laura Dewey Bridgman
BRIDGMAN, Miss Laura Dewey, blind deaf-mute, born in Hanover, N. H., 21st December, 1829, died in South Boston, Mass., 24th May, 1889. Her parents were Daniel and Harmony LAURA DEWEY BRIDGMAN. Bridgman. Laura was a delicate infant and subject to severe convulsions. Her health improved until she was two years old, at which age she was a very active and intelligent child, able to talk and familiar with some letters of the alphabet. As she was entering her third year, the family were smitten by the scarlet fever. Two older daughters died of the fever, and Laura was attacked by it For seven weeks she could not swallow solid food, and then both eyes and ears suppurated and her sight, hearing and sense of smell were totally destroyed. For a year she could not walk without support, and it was two years before she could sit up all day. When she was live years old, her health was once more perfect, and her mind, unaffected by her distressful affliction, began to crave food. She had forgotten the few words she knew when she was smitten. Her remaining sense, that of touch, grew very acute. Her mother taught her to sew, knit and braid. Communication with her was possible only by signs that could lie given by touch. She was an affectionate, hut self-willed, child. Dr. S. G. Howe, director of the Institution of the Blind in Boston, heard of her, and she was placed in his charge 9th October, 1837. Dr. Howe, assisted by Mrs. L. H. Morton, of Halifax, Mass., developed a special system of training that accomplished wonders. A manual alphabet was used, and Laura learned to read and write in sixteen months, having acquired a considerable vocabulary. Her intellect developed rapidly, and she learned mathematical operations to a limited extent. Her case attracted a great deal of attention, and the system of instruction developed by Dr. Howe in her case was applied successfully to other children similarly deprived of their senses. Laura had no conception of religion up to her twelfth year, as her instructors purposely refrained from giving her any ideas of God until she was old enough to take a correct idea. She could not, as has been asserted, distinguish color by feeling. Laura was visited by many prominent persons, among whom were Mrs. Lydia H. Sigourney and Charles Dickens. The " Notes on America " mention Mr. Dickens' visit. George Combe, of Scotland, visited Laura in 1842, and at his suggestion arrangements were made to keep a full record of everything connected with the remarkable girl. By dint of training she learned to speak many words. Her imagination developed more slowly than any other faculty, and her moral ideas were perceptibly different, in some phases, from those of ordinary persons. Her education is fully recorded in Mary Swift Lawson's "Life and Education of Laura Dewey Bridgman," published in 1881.