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8 Women with Deafblindness

We propose that today, March 8, we get to know the life stories of eight women with deafblindness who, through their strength and determination, broke the barriers created by their lack of sight and hearing and managed to prove that nothing is impossible.

Victorine Morriseau (1789-1832, France) was the first known person with deafblindness who learned a formal language of communication (in a religious context).

Laura Bridgman (1829 –1889, U.S.A.)  was the first educated  child with deafblindness in the United States, more than 50 years before Helen Keller. At the age of two, due to scarlet fever, she loses her sight, hearing, smell and taste. She arrives at the Perkins Institute for the Blind where she learns to communicate using tactile finger-spelling and Braille.

Ragnhild Kåta (1873 – 1947, Norway) was the first person with deafblindness in Norway to receive a formal education. At the age of three, she lost four of her five senses: sight, hearing, taste and smell, most likely from scarlet fever. At the age of 15, she started studying at the Hamar Institute for the Deaf where she learnt to read and write in Braille, but also to speak. She learnt to embroider, knit and weave, thus becoming independent.

Helen Keller (1880 – 1968, U.S.A.) she is probably the best known person with deafblindness in the world. An extremely strong woman, she became a writer and activist for the rights of people with disabilities, despite the fact that, at the age of only 1 year and a half, she completely lost both her sight and hearing, due to an illness - most likely meningitis. With the help of her teacher, Anne Sullivan, also a visually impaired person, she learnt to communicate, then attended the courses of the Perkins Institute for the Blind and then Harvard University, becoming the first person with deafblindness with a degree in arts.

Ragnhild Kåta

Laura Bridgman

Helen Keller, Theresa Lin Chan

Yvonne Pitrois (1880 –1937, France) was a writer. At the age of 7, she lost her hearing due to fever caused by sunstroke, and her vision was deeply affected. She wrote numerous articles in France, England, Switzerland and the United States and at the age of only 18 she published her first book. She became a member of the French Academy in 1929.

Alice Chapman (1901 –1966, Australia), the first person with deafblindness to receive an education in Australia. She lost both her sight and hearing at just two years old due to meningitis. She learned to communicate at the Institute for the Hearing Impaired, a school she graduated from and where she remained as a teacher.

Olga Skorokhodova (1911 – 1982, U.S.S.R.) was a scientist, therapist, teacher and writer. She was born in a small town in the U.S.S.R. (now Ukraine) and at the age of five she lost both her sight and hearing due to meningitis. At the age of 13, she arrived at the Clinical School for Deafblind Children, where, under the guidance of Professor Ivan Sokolyansky, she learned to speak and communicate. She became a researcher at the Institute for People with Disabilities within the Soviet Academy of Pedagogical Sciences.

Theresa Poh Lin Chan (1943 –2016, Singapore), writer and teacher, she lost her hearing at the age of 12 and her sight two years later. She was accepted to the Perkins Institute for the Blind, where she studied mathematics, learned to dance, ride, skate, and knit. It was there that she fulfilled her greatest dream, that of meeting Helen Keller. She later became a teacher at the School for the Blind in Singapore.

Yvonne Pitrois

Alice Chapman

Olga Skorokhodova

Information and photo source: Wikipedia