Library Collections: Document: Full Text

Industrial Homes Vs. Almshouses

Creator: n/a
Date: February 24, 1903
Publication: Boston Transcript
Source: Perkins School for the Blind




For hundreds of years it seems to have been conceded by all countries that while we have poverty and men and women who cannot earn their living unaided, almshouses are among the necessities of our civilization. We are always told that the wretched people who fill these State houses sit and brood over their hard fate and murmur about the food and shelter doled out to them, showing that this assistance -- like that given to the beggar on the street -- is demoralizing to the recipient.


The work of the "Massachusetts Association to Promote the Interest of the Adult Blind," new as it is, has progressed far enough to reveal, from study of the reports from the Industrial homes started long ago in other States -- namely, Pennsylvania, New York, California, Illinois, Connecticut and those of Canada, England, Germany, Austria and Australia -- that though the trades taught vary with the different localities and the people are of many nationalities there is no need of the blind becoming paupers. There is one main fact on which all these reports agree -- the uniform cheerfulness and industry of the sightless workers.


Surely no calamity can be greater than the loss of sight after maturity, when one has become dependent upon it more than any other sense or perhaps more than all the other senses. An awful feeling of helplessness shrouds the spirit and a hopeless inaction affects the vitality of the man or woman and makes life a burden. There is but one relief to this hapless condition -- work. It is hard to train the other senses to take, partially, the place of sight, yet it can be done, and with this training comes hope to the individual and courage to take up the life in darkness when the awful dread of dependence ceases to impel toward suicide. Nothing can make up to a man or woman for the loss of self-respect, therefore our almshouses fail to give true aid to their so-called beneficiaries.


The last available census gives Massachusetts 11,056 paupers, of whom 251 were blind. Cannot our State guardians reserve one of our numerous almshouses for our homeless blind, where they may be taught trades and be freed from anxiety about food and clothes while they are learning to support themselves? We might learn from such a laudable experiment that State working homes, for both the blind and the seeing, are not only the best but the cheapest means whereby to arouse and preserve the self-respect of the beneficiaries by aiding them to help themselves.