The Unseen Minority: A Social History of Blindness in the United States


In one of the nine file drawers of documentary material accumulated during the four years spent researching and writing this book, there is a folder labeled "Interviews." It contains notes of conversations with 37 persons who shared facts, recollections, and insights which in one way or another contributed to my knowledge and understanding of the complex subjects treated in this volume.

Many were present and former staff members of the American Foundation for the Blind. Without attempting to particularize their individual contributions, I should like to voice sincere thanks to M. Robert Barnett, John W. Breuel, Leslie L. Clark, Annette B. Dinsmore, Milton D. Graham, Arthur Helms, Ira Kaplan, John F. Likely, the late Evelyn C. McKay, Pauline M. Moor, Mary Ellen Mulholland, Eber L. Palmer, Joseph Perretto, Harold G. Roberts, Robert L. Robinson, Irvin P. Schloss, Patricia S. Smith, Susan J. Spungin, Ruth E. Wilcox, and Marion V. Wurster.

Because the bulk of the primary source material on which I drew for the compilation of this history was to be found in the extensive archives of the Foundation, very special thanks are due for the unflaggingly patient and helpful assistance of Marguerite L. Levine, supervisor of the record center and curator of the Helen Keller papers. Considerable help also came from the Foundation's librarian, Mary Maie Richardson, and her staff.

Three Foundation officers generously gave of their time to talk with me: Richard H. Migel, Jansen Noyes, Jr., and Eustace Seligman. I am also indebted to Parmenia Migel Ekstrom, daughter of the Foundation's first president, who supplied biographical and anecdotal material about her parents.

My gratitude extends as well to a number of persons associated with other major organizations in work for the blind who allowed me to consult them on their respective areas of expertise: C. Warren Bledsoe, James C. Bliss, Eric T. Boulter, Robert S. Bray, Robin C. B. Buckley, the late Ethel Everett, Howard Freiberger, Charles Galozzi, Alexander F. Handel, Marjorie S. Hooper, Arthur S. Keller, Elizabeth Maloney, Peter J. Salmon, and Henry A. Wood.

Appreciation is also expressed to five persons who, at my request, reviewed the chapters dealing with services to the war-blinded and helped bring to life a period in which they themselves played roles. In addition to Messrs. Bledsoe, Robinson, and Schloss, these were Kathern Gruber and Russell C. Williams.

In commissioning the writing of this book, the American Foundation for the Blind agreed that I, as author, would have complete latitude in determining its scope and sole power of decision in selecting and interpreting the historical data to be included. Although several persons associated with the Foundation reviewed the completed manuscript and made helpful suggestions, there was no effort to censor or control its contents. As the chapter notes and bibliography will reveal, great care was taken to document facts, dates, figures, and quotations. If, despite this care, errors have crept in, the responsibility is mine alone.

Finally, I feel compelled to acknowledge an emotional and psychological debt to the two people, both long dead, from whom I first learned about blindness. They were my father, who gradually lost his vision over a twenty-five year period and was totally blind the last eight years of his life, and my mother, who discovered for herself how to live with a blind man and give him the kind of unobtrusive help and unfaltering moral support that enabled him to live out his years in comfort and dignity.

Brooklyn, New York
April 1974

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