Lanra Bridgman, a blind deaf mute, born at Hanover, N. H., Dec. 21,1829. Up to the age of two years she possessed all her faculties, but a severe illness at that time occasioned the loss of sight and hearing, and consequently of speech, while the sense of smell was also destroyed, and that of taste greatly impaired. She recovered her health gradually, but none of her lost senses were restored. At the age of eight she became an inmate of the Perkins institution for the blind in Boston, under the care of Dr. S. G. Howe, and soon acquired such a familiarity with the building and its various apartments that she could wander at will through it unattended. Dr. Howe resolved to undertake the task of instructing her, a work which until that time had never been attempted with success. The first step was to teach her the names of objects; for this purpose an object with which she was familiar, such as a fork or spoon, was put into her hand, and with its name in raised letters. This was repeated many times and with different objects, till she had learned that the word bore some relation to the object. As yet, however, her idea of this relation was very vague. The next step was to present her the separate letters in relief, at first so arranged as to form the name of an object which she knew.
Finding that she recognized the word, her teacher disarranged the letters, and taking her hands in his own proceeded to reconstruct the word, causing her to observe each letter which composed it; having done this several times, she constructed the word herself without assistance. The same process was then repeated with other words, and before the close of her lesson the idea had evidently dawned upon her mind that this was a means by which she could communicate her own thoughts to others. This process was continued until she had become familiar with a considerable number of words. She was then furnished with type having the letters in relief, and a board which had been pierced with holes for the reception of the type. Objects known to her were then presented, and she would compose the names with the type. This afforded her great delight. She was next taught the manual alphabet, which she acquired very readily. This having been attained, her teacher presented her with an object with which she was not familiar, and left her for a time to inform herself concerning its form and use.
The teacher then spelled its name with the manual alphabet, the child following each letter till she had comprehended that it was the name of the object, when she herself spelled it in the same way, then composed it with her types, and finally, as if to make assurance doubly sure, placed the word thus composed by the side of the object. All this was accomplished in the first three months. The same course, together with some lessons on the physical relations of objects, was continued through the year. Laura never wearied of this instruction, but when left to herself was constantly spelling words either with her type or the manual alphabet. Her instruction was confined for the first two years to the names of objects; the attempt was then made to instruct her in their qualities, and subsequently in their relations to each other. There were many difficulties connected with each step, but patience and perseverance overcame them all. She was next taught to write, and her first effort was to write a letter unassisted to her mother. She subsequently acquired the rudiments of arithmetic; took lessons on the piano, on which she became a skilful performer; and acquired a practical knowledge of needlework, and of some household duties.
The ideas she acquired were constantly the subjects of thought and inquiry. She one day addressed to Dr. Howe this question: " Man has made houses and vessels, but who made the land and the sea?" The answer that it was God who made all things, and the explanation of his character, affected her deeply. She sought to know more of this wonderful being, and did not rest satisfied till her teachers had explained to her the great truths of revelation. The fear of death, which had formerly distressed her, passed away with the entrance of the hope of a resurrection. In deportment she is modest almost to diffidence. She possesses a decided love of system and neatness, never leaving her room in disorder, and exhibiting great solicitude for propriety and taste in the arrangement of her dress. She exhibits a marked regard for the rights of others, and is at the same time jealously mindful of her own. She is now (1873) in her 44th year, and makes her home most of the time at the Perkins institution. Dr. Howe writes: " She enjoys life quite as much, probably more, than most persons do. She reads whatever books she finds in raised point, but especially the Bible. She makes much of her own clothing, and can run a sewing machine.
She seems happiest when she can find some person who knows the finger alphabet and can sit and gossip with her about acquaintances, the news, and general matters. Her moral sense is well developed".