Edmund Booth: Deaf Pioneer

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Edmund Booth: Deaf Pioneer

Edmund Booth was born on a farm near Springfield, Massachusetts in 1810. Some of the

"hats" he wore during his lifetime were farmer, teacher, activist for the deaf, pioneer settler, 49er,

journalist, and politician.

The consistent theme in Booth's life, one to which he always returned, was his commitment to the

deaf: working for the rights of all deaf people in this country, including education of deaf children.

Booth's interest in deaf issues was very personal since he himself had lost all of his hearing by the

time he was eight years old, he was struck down during an outbreak of "spotted fever"

(cerebrospinal meningitis). After he recovered, he discovered he was partially deaf and totally

blind in one eye. The same epidemic killed his father.

At age seven or eight, after he and a friend spent an entire day playing in a local pond, Booth

discovered he could not hear at all. Luckily, in between the two incidents, his mother had taught

him to read; and he had "a bit of schooling."

Booth lived on his uncle's farm for several years. While he was there, he had a meeting which

changed his life. Flavel Goldthwaite, a neighbor, came for a visit and told Booth about the

Hartford Asylum for deaf students.

Booth was admitted the following year and studied under Laurent Clerc, Thomas Hopkins

Gallaudet, and Lewis Weld. He was at the school for 11 years, becoming a teacher after

completing his course of study. At one point (1834) Booth and two other teachers went to South

Carolina and Georgia. At each place, they gave "exhibitions" of deaf education to state

legislatures. Impressed by what they had seen, the legislators in both stat...

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his life, Booth remained vigorous and active in the fight for deaf rights.

In Chicago for the World's Fair (1893), Booth received an enthusiastic reception from people

gathered for a world congress of the deaf. He was surrounded by crowds of well-wishers who

expressed their affection and respect. In the midst of his admirers, " ... like King Saul of old

'higher than any of the people from his shoulders and upward' -- (he was) a veritable patriarch ..."

He was then the oldest (83) living ex-teacher of the deaf in the U. S. Booth lived through the end

of the 19th century and witnessed the first 4 1/2 years of the 20th. He was 94 when he died on

March 29, 1905.

Edmund Booth was described as " ... a man of strong convictions, hating shams, pretensions, and

injustice ..." He was "kind-hearted, liberal-minded, and generous ..."

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