Note: Each month of 2007, Access Press will feature an important person in disability history: local, regional or national.
Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe (1801-1876) was involved in many social causes in 19th century America. He was concerned about the conditions of persons with mental illness, persons with hearing and visual impairments, slaves, and groups of people who were politically oppressed throughout Europe.
In 1848, Dr. Howe, director of the Perkins School for the Blind, established The Massachusetts School for Idiotic and Feeble-Minded Youth, an experimental boarding school in South Boston for youth with intellectual deficiencies. Howe firmly believed in the importance of family and community, and wanted his school to prepare children with disabilities to live with the rest of society.
At this time, most social reformers in America believed “idiots” could not be taught. Many believed that phrenology – the practice of studying the shape of the skull to determine human characteristics and functions – offered the only hope of understanding disabilities.
Excerpted with permission from Parallels in Time, [www.mncdd.org]