The woman who inspired Helen Keller's mother: Laura Bridgman

Laura Bridgman became the first Deafblind child to learn to read and write and inspired Charles Dickens to write about her.

Laura Dewey Lynn Bridgman (December 21, 1829 – May 24, 1889) was the first deaf-blind American child to gain a significant education in the English language, twenty years before the more famous Helen Keller; Laura's friend Anne Sullivan became Helen Keller's aide.[1] Bridgman was left deaf-blind at the age of two after contracting scarlet fever. She was educated at the Perkins Institution for the Blind where, under the direction of Samuel Gridley Howe, she learned to read and communicate using Braille and the manual alphabet developed by Charles-Michel de l'Épée.[2]

For several years, Bridgman gained celebrity status when Charles Dickens met her during his 1842 American tour and wrote about her accomplishments in his American Notes. Her fame was short-lived, however, and she spent the remainder of her life in relative obscurity, most of it at the Perkins Institute, where she passed her time sewing and reading books in Braille.

Bridgman became famous in her youth as an example of the education of a deaf-blind person. Helen Keller's mother, Kate Keller, read Dickens's account in American Notes and was inspired to seek advice which led to her hiring a teacher and former pupil of the same school, Anne Sullivan. Sullivan learned the manual alphabet at the Perkins Institution which she took back to Helen, along with a doll wearing clothing that Bridgman had sewn herself.

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