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Bonner, Marita Odette (16 June 1898–06 December 1971), educator and author, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of Joseph Bonner, a machinist and laborer, and Mary A. Nowell. Educated in the Brookline, Massachusetts, public schools, she applied to Radcliffe College at the urging of her high school faculty adviser and was one of the few African-American students accepted for admission. She majored in English and comparative literature and founded the Radcliffe chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, a black sorority. A gifted pianist and student of musical composition, she won the Radcliffe song competition in 1918 and 1922. Bonner also studied German, a language in which she became fluent. During her last year in college she taught English at a Cambridge high school. After graduating with a B.A. in 1922, she taught at the Bluefield Colored Institute in Bluefield, Virginia, until 1924 and at Armstrong High School in Washington, D.C., from 1924 to 1930, when she married William Almy Occomy, a Brown graduate. The couple moved to Chicago, where they raised three children....

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Bridgman, Laura Dewey (21 December 1829–24 May 1889), first deaf-blind person to receive a formal academic education, was born near Etna, New Hampshire, the daughter of Daniel Bridgman and Harmony Downer. Her father, a substantial farmer and pillar of the Baptist church, served two sessions in the New Hampshire legislature. At age two, Laura and her two older sisters suffered an attack of scarlet fever. Her sisters died, and it was two years before Laura was able to sit up all day and three years until she regained her full strength. The illness left her without any sight or hearing and little sense of smell and taste. The speech she acquired before her illness was forgotten....

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Crosby, Fanny (24 March 1820–12 February 1915), poet and author of gospel hymn texts, was born Frances Jane Crosby in Putnam County, New York, the daughter of John Crosby and Mercy Crosby, farmers. (Her mother’s maiden name and married name were the same.) At the age of six weeks, she developed an eye infection, for which a man falsely claiming to be a physician prescribed the application of hot poultices; the tragic result was permanent blindness. That same year her father died, and her mother went to work as a maid. Fanny was first sent to live with her grandmother, and later with a Mrs. Hawley, who realized the child’s precociousness and set her to memorizing much of the Bible. Within two years, Fanny had committed the entire Pentateuch (complete with genealogies), most of the poetic books, and the four Gospels to memory....

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Fuller, Sarah (15 February 1836–01 August 1927), educator and advocate for deaf children, was born in Weston, Massachusetts, the daughter of Hervey Fuller and Celynda Fiske, farmers. After receiving her early education in Newton Lower Falls, Massachusetts, Fuller attended the Allan English and Classical School of West Newton. ...

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Garrett, Mary Smith (20 June 1839–18 July 1925), educator of deaf children and child welfare advocate, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Henry Garrett, a prominent Philadelphia businessman, and Caroline Rush Cole. Little is known of Garrett’s early life. She began a lifelong career in deaf education in 1881 when she was hired by the Pennsylvania Institution for the Deaf and Dumb to teach at the recently established “Oral Branch” (a separate campus where sign language was prohibited). Her younger sister, Emma Garrett, was the head teacher at the time. Mary Garrett had had no formal training in deaf education; her sister however, instructed her in the teaching methods she had learned from ...

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Macy, Anne Sullivan (14 April 1866–20 October 1936), special educator, was born Johanna Mansfield Sullivan in Feeding Hills (near Springfield), Massachusetts, the daughter of Thomas Sullivan and Alice Cloesy, farmers. She was known throughout her life as Anne or Annie. Her parents (both immigrants from County Limerick, Ireland) were illiterate, and her childhood was marred by both poverty and misfortune. An attack of trachoma around the age of five left her virtually blind, and she was subjected to frequent beatings at the hands of her alcoholic father. In 1874 her mother died, and two years later her father abandoned his three living children. While her sister Mary was sent to live with relatives, Anne and her brother Jimmie (crippled from a bout with tuberculosis) were sent to the state almshouse in Tewksbury, where Jimmie died a few months later....

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Rogers, Harriet Burbank (12 April 1834–12 December 1919), educator of the deaf, was born in North Billerica, Massachusetts, the daughter of Calvin Rogers and Ann Faulkner, farmers. After receiving her early education in local public schools, she attended the Massachusetts State Normal School (later Framingham State College) in West Newton. Following her graduation in 1851, she taught at several country schools as well as at the Westford (Mass.) Academy....