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September 6, 2001

Authors to Discuss Laura Bridgman, Pioneer Pupil of Deaf-Blind Education

Laura Bridgman (1829-1889), the first deaf-blind child to learn language and a predecessor of Helen Keller by some 60 years, is the subject of a lecture to be held at the Library of Congress at noon, Friday, Sept. 14, in Room 119 of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E. The program is free and open to the public. No tickets are required.

Sponsored jointly by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) of the Library of Congress and the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution, and moderated by Floyd Matson, professor of American Studies at the University of Hawaii, the program will feature authors Ernest Freeberg and Elisabeth Gitter discussing their new biographies on the life and education of Laura Bridgman.

Mr. Freeberg, an associate professor of the humanities at Colby-Sawyer College in New Hampshire, is the author of The Education of Laura Bridgman: First Deaf and Blind Person to Learn Language (Harvard University Press). After working as a public radio journalist and documentary producer, he received his doctorate in United States history from Emory University in 1995, specializing in American intellectual and religious history. His work on the education of Laura Bridgman was awarded the Sidney E. Mead Prize by the American Society of Church History, and has been supported by research grants from the Spencer Foundation in Chicago. He is currently researching and writing about the early history of education for the blind in the United States, and the cultural history of blindness in the 19th century. Mr. Freeberg serves on the editorial board of the History of Education Quarterly.

Ms. Gitter, professor of English at John Jay College in New York, is the author of The Imprisoned Guest: Samuel Howe and Laura Bridgman, the Original Deaf-Blind Girl (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). She received her bachelor's degree in philosophy from Wellesley College and her doctorate in English from Yale University. A specialist in Victorian studies, Ms. Gitter has published numerous essays on 19th century literature, art, and history, including recent articles on deaf and blind women, one of which won the Monroe Kirk Spears Award in 1999.

Mr. Matson is the author of 11 books and recipient of the Woodrow Wilson Prize and the Distinguished Humanist Award, among other honors. He is currently at work on a biography of Jacobus tenBroek, the distinguished blind scholar who became the founding father of the National Federation of the Blind.

Copies of the featured books will be available for purchase immediately after the panel discussion and authors will be on hand for a book signing. Both books are being produced in braille and audio formats for eligible borrowers throughout the NLS network of cooperating libraries. Mr. Freeberg's book is available for circulation on audio cassette as RC 51875 and available for reserve in braille as BR 13354. Ms. Gitter's book is available on audio cassette as RC 51849 and in braille as BR 13353.

During the past 70 years, NLS has grown to a program that currently produces and distributes 23 million books and magazines to a readership of more than 759,000 blind, visually impaired, and physically handicapped individuals through a network of 138 regional and subregional libraries.

The National Portrait Gallery collection includes 18,500 works, ranging from paintings and sculpture to photographs and drawings. Its treasures include portraits of each of the U.S. presidents and portraits of Americans who have made outstanding contributions to American life and culture in their chosen professions.

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PR 01-126
ISSN 0731-3527

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