Friday, May 02, 2008

She Touched the World

I have been fascinated with Helen Keller since the third grade. I did a social studies fair project on her and won first place. I taught myself fingerspelling and several signs in American Sign Language (long forgotten by now, for the most part), watched The Miracle Worker, and read everything I could find about her.

In every book I read about Helen Keller, Laura Bridgman was mentioned. The authors usually only bothered to write a few sentences about Laura, and I always wanted to know more about her. How I would have welcomed She Touched the World: Laura Bridgman, Deaf-Blind Pioneer!

A devastating childhood illness left Laura blind and deaf. Initially thought to be uneducable and hopeless, Laura's story caught the attention of Dr. Howe, head of a New England blind school. Laura was sent to the residential school, where she learned knitting, geography, writing, and other subjects. Her astonishing success made her an international celebrity at the age of twelve and admired by such personalities as Charles Dickens.

Although Laura is forever overshadowed by Helen Keller, Laura's achievements paved the way for Helen Keller's astonishing achievements (Keller also benefitted from an earlier start in her education, a long-term teacher, an outgoing personality, and more real-life adventures and situations). This is an intriguing biography of a fascinating woman.

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