Knowledge Nugget: Inspirational History

Every once in awhile the writers at Last Call come across a topic or fact during research that won’t quite work in a show.

There are several reasons that we decide not to write a question about something that we’ve found, but sometimes it is really cool…Like Zach Morris’s cell phone cool. Instead of being greedy and hoarding these fun nuggets of knowledge, we decided that it’s time to start sharing.
This first time around is in the form of a biography.

In a quick search through the Last Call show database, it can be seen that there have been numerous questions and answers regarding Helen Keller. Looking through those same shows though, there was not a single question about a woman by the name of Laura Bridgman. Bridgman and Keller actually had quite a lot in common, and Bridgman actually lived before Keller.

If it hasn’t yet been discerned, Laura Bridgman was a deaf and blind woman.   In addition to this, she didn’t have the ability to smell or taste. Despite these obstacles, Bridgman did have the ability to learn.

DeskLike Keller, Laura Bridgman was affected by an ailment at a young age that caused her to lose her senses. The culprit in Bridgman’s story was Scarlet Fever at the age of two. Despite her abilities being taken away, Bridgman’s parents enrolled her at Perkins school for the blind in Massachusetts in 1837. During her time in school, Bridgman was able to learn how to construct words and sentences, and was also able to perform simple arithmetic. These, among other accomplishments, were feats that had not been attained in the past.

Because of Bridgman’s success at Perkins, word began to spread, and articles were being written and shared in various teaching circles throughout parts of the United States and Europe. Among those to read these articles was Charles Dickens. Dickens was intrigued by Bridgman’s story, and decided to include her story in his travelogue, American Notes.

american-notes

American Notes brought Bridgman’s story to the world. After the travelogues’ release, thousands of people visited Perkins to see her performing various tasks. During her time at Perkins, and through the help of many teachers, Bridgman eventually gained the distinction as being the first deaf and blind person to become fully educated.

Laura Bridgman not only shared obstacles and a successful education with Helen Keller, she also played a role in inspiring Keller’s parents when dealing with the news that their child had become deaf and blind. When Helen Keller was just six years old, her mother was searching for help in her daughter’s situation. During this search, her mother came across Dickens’ American Notes. After reading about Bridgman, Helen’s mother knew that her daughter was not only capable of learning, but that there were several avenues and methods to explore in achieving a successful education. Helen’s mother decided to enroll her in the same school that Bridgman had attended, Perkins Institute for the Blind. While in school, Keller encountered many of the same successes that Bridgman had achieved.

There is a reason Helen Keller is a household name, though, and that Laura Bridgman is not. While Bridgman did the inspiring, she did not go on to impact the world in the ways that Helen Keller did. She did inspire people, and one of those people was Helen Keller’s mother. Without Laura Bridgman’s story in that publication of Charles Dickens’, the world may have never had the chance to be so positively impacted by Helen Keller. While there may not ever be a question about Laura Bridgman at a Last Call Trivia night, it is important to know that she was an integral part of history.

Laura Bridgman