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First Annual Report Of The Massachusetts Commission For The Blind

Creator: n/a
Date: 1908
Publisher: Wright & Potter, Boston
Source: Mount Holyoke College Library

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The Commonwealth of Massachusetts.




To His Excellency the Governor and the Honorable Council.


GENTLEMEN: -- The Massachusetts Commission for the Blind begs leave to submit the following report, covering the period between July 6, 1900, and the end of the fiscal year, Nov. 30, 1907. The commission was established under chapter 385 of the Acts of 1900, the terms of which are set forth in XIII, Appendix A of this report. His Excellency Governor Guild, on July 6, 1900, appointed the persons named below to serve as members of the commission. The Executive Council a week later confirmed the appointments, as follows: --


Dr. Edward M. Hartwell of Boston, for five years.
Miss Helen Keller of Wrentham, for four years.
Miss Annette P. Rogers of Boston, for three years.
Dr. J. H. A. Matte of North Adams, for two years.
Mr. Robert L. Raymond of Milton, for one year.


At the expiration of his term Mr. Raymond declined reappointmeat, and Mr. James P. Munroe of Lexington was appointed to succeed him.


The commission organized at its first meeting, on July 18, 1906, by the choice of Dr. Hartwell as chairman and Mr. Raymond as secretary. Since its organization the meetings of the commission have usually numbered two a month.


At this point it seems well to indicate the course of events which led to the establishment of the commission, whose primary duty.


By chapter 13 of the Resolves of 1899 the State Board of Education was directed to inquire and report upon the feasibility of instructing the adult blind at their homes (see I., Appendix A), The Legislature of 1899 was led to take this action mainly through the appeal of the late J. Newton Breed of Somerville. Mr. Breed, who had become blind in the prime of life, was keenly alive to the pitiable condition of many of the adult blind in the State, who were rendered unhappy and dependent through lack of occupation. He strove assiduously to have means provided for them home instruction.


The sixty-fourth report of the State Board of Education contained a valuable report, prepared by the secretary of the Board, the late Frank A. Hill, on the "Feasibility of instructing the Adult Blind at their Homes." The report showed that the needs of the adult blind were both genuine and unprovided for, and declared that there was "a considerable proportion of the adult blind for whom home instruction is both feasible and desirable."


In accordance with recommendations of the report, the Legislature of 1900 appropriated $1,000, "to be expended by the Perkins Institution and Massachusetts School for the Blind for the instruction of the adult blind at their homes," on condition that the plans for such expenditure should be approved by the State Board of Education. It should be noted that the Alumnae Association of the Perkins Institution had undertaken in 1898 to provide home instruction for certain blind women, and had been granted the sum of $100 by the trustees of the Perkins Institution in aid of their undertaking.


In 1901 the General Court made a further appropriation of $3,000 for the instruction of the adult blind at their homes (see III., Appendix A); and in 1902, by chapter 297 of the Acts of that year (see IV., Appendix A), authorized the appropriation of $5,000 annually for the same purpose. Accordingly for several years four blind persons have been enabled to serve the State as home teachers of the blind, with laudable results. Their efforts have been chiefly devoted to teaching writing and the use of embossed type for reading, although some instruction in basketry, sewing, knitting, etc., has also been given.


In 1902 a group of noble women, connected with the Women's Educational and Industrial Union of Boston, became actively interested in the welfare of the adult blind. They enlisted the interest of various philanthropic and public-spirited people, who united with them in organizing the Massachusetts Association for promoting the Interests of the Adult Blind, and in attempting to induce the Legislature to establish some sort of an industrial home for the blind, similar to institutions already maintained or aided by the States of Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. At the suggestion of Governor Bates their plans were modified, and the association devoted itself in the early months of 1903 to inducing the Legislature to authorize the appointment of a commission to investigate the condition of the adult blind within the Commonwealth, and report to the Legislature of 1904.


Accordingly, in August, 1903, His Excellency Governor Bates, in conformity with chapter 74, Resolves of 1903 (see VI., Appendix A), appointed a commission consisting of Dr. Edward M. Hartwell of Boston, chairman, Mr. A. H. Hardy of Boston and Miss Agnes Irwin of Cambridge. The commission prosecuted its inquiries by means of: (1) hearings and conferences with representative blind persons and their friends; (2) correspondence with the overseers of the poor in the several cities and towns of the Commonwealth; (3) personal canvass and visitation of the blind in various parts of the State; (4) visits to the principal educational and industrial institutions for the blind east of the Mississippi River; and (5) the study of reports and legislation bearing on the subject.

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