by Nikki Delay
I enjoyed learning about Julia Brace. Of course I had heard about Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan as I was growing up, but when the article introduced me to Laura Bridgeman I was intrigued. While reading about Laura I was even more intrigued by her teacher Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe and Julia Brace, who it seems to me, was the forerunner of both Laura Bridgeman and Helen Keller.
All three of these women lost their sight and hearing at a young age from fever and all three were educated. What interested me about Julia Brace is that she went to a mainstream boarding school with hearing and seeing children until she was nearly 18. It is interesting that she was a part of this school for many years and functioned effectively within their parameters.
When Julia was 18 she attended the Hartford Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb and despite being the only blind person at the school she learned tactile American Sign Language and became a part of the community with friends, hobbies, chores and cared for the sick.
It was his interaction with Julia at the Hartford Asylum that led Dr. Howe to begin his work with Laura Bridgeman. Without this meeting where Howe could see Julia’s learning and contribution to society, perhaps he wouldn’t have seen the potential in Laura Bridgeman. Without Laura Bridgeman’s interactions and work with Annie Sullivan perhaps Helen Keller wouldn’t have learned all she learned and became the model she is today for the Deaf community. It is a domino effect with the efforts and lifestyle of Julia Brace at the beginning of it all.