Library Collections: Document: Full Text

The Pension Question In Massachusetts

Creator: Lucy Wright (author)
Date: January 1916
Publication: The Outlook for the Blind
Source: American Printing House for the Blind, Inc., M. C. Migel Library

Next Page   All Pages 

Page 1:



(1) A paper read before a private informal conference on pensions for the needy blind, January 15, 1916.


General Superintendent Massachusetts Commission for the Blind


Editor's Note -- So much interest is being taken in the question of providing financial relief for the needy blind in different states that we feel it very desirable that our readers should acquaint themselves with the point of view of workers for the blind in as many states as possible. Furthermore, it is of the utmost importance that we should all realize that the conditions are not the same in all states. We do not mean by this that the blind are less needy in one state than another, but that organized charities, both state and private, vary in different states. For example, in Massachusetts there are many resources relief and public outdoor relief is more closely organized than in many other states. It is interesting for workers for the blind to note that the foundations for co-ordinating the work of public charities in Massachusetts were laid as early as 1866 in the days when Samuel Gridley Howe was Secretary of the then new State Board of Charity. In addition to this, the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind has been in active operation since 1906, and the agents of this Commission are constantly endeavoring to secure through existing agencies financial and other relief for blind individuals who come under their notice.


At the present time much attention is being given, especially among the blind, to the question whether or not they shall support a bill now before the Massachusetts Legislature to provide "Pensions for the Needy Blind, in form similar to those laws now existing in Ohio, Illinois and Maine. A conference of the blind and workers for the blind was held at which Miss Lucy Wright, General Superintendent of the Massachusetts Commission, presented, informally and unofficially, the line of argument given in the following paper. It should be clearly understood that the friends of the blind in Massachusetts are just as anxious as those of other states that worthy, needy blind persons should receive adequate assistance. There is no controversy relative to the fact that there are blind people who do need monetary relief. The real question is how this relief can be given for the best interest of the beneficiaries and also the community. Miss Wright's thoughtful and careful analysis of the subject should be studied by all those who are concerned with this problem.


Shall we work for Pensions for the Needy Blind




Shall we continue to work, case by case, and group by group, for Extension of Industrial Aid and Public and Private Relief for the Blind, through the central bureau of information, field work and aid, already established by the Commission for the Blind?


These are the alternatives before us. Some of us here believe in the first and some in the second plan. We may be in exactly the same position at the end of the hour, but I hope that I shall have at least made clear why I am for the second alternative, and that in doing so, I may have helped arrive at an understanding of why we differ; made clear the real difficulties of the subject which we must all face in common, whichever side we are on; and brought out a number of points upon which we agree. One thing is certain, at the start, we all want done whatever can be done to relieve the needs of blind people and, as Mr. Allen expressed it at the annual meeting of the Association, "We recognize the tragedy that exists when poverty and blindness enter the same household."


You may ask why must we choose. Are these real alternatives? I think they are for both practical reasons and as a matter of principle. The practical reason is that either plan costs so much it is not likely our fellow-citizens will at the some time give adequate support to both. The difference in principle of the two plans I hope to make clear as I go on.


The immediate issue before those who are concerned about the cause of the blind as a whole is whether they will lend their support to a general measure like the pension bill or whether they will support the State Commission in building up step by step a more varied and substantial means of helping the blind. To decide, anyone needs to know both the facts and principles involved. Whoever takes the responsibility of supporting one plan or the other, without so informing himself, is not a true friend of the cause.


How are we to know? Some of the tests that may rightfully be put to any measure are:


Is it a hasty one or the kind that promises the best in the long run?


Is it a plan capable of giving a maximum of good and a minimum of abuse?


Is it going to bring out the best human qualities in the group for whom it is planned?


Is it just to the social whole as well as to the specially considered group?


The plan for pensions on the basis of blindness and a certain degree of need, seems easy, quick and helpful. I wish I could believe it so, for relief for the needy blind is inadequate (though not as inadequate, I believe, in Massachusetts, as supporters of the pension bill believe), and if I turn down your remedy, I must show you a better one.

Next Page

Pages:  1  2  3  4  5  6  7    All Pages