[MD-AtLarge] An Interesting Story
nfbmd at earthlink.net
Sat Apr 4 19:23:58 UTC 2020
Here is an interesting story from the history lady, Peggy Chong. Peggy
addressed both of our chapters a few years ago. Take heart from this blind
trailblazer. Enjoy. Read Below.
Sharon Maneki, Director of Legislation and Advocacy
National Federation of the Blind of Maryland
The Blind History Lady weighs in on COVID-19.
These are strange times, but this is not new to our country. A bit of a
history lesson. We may not remember the Asian Flu epidemic of 1957, the Hong
Kong Flu of 1967, the Russian Flu of 1976, but we all have a memory of the
H1N1 and others of the recent past. There is a flu epidemic almost every
year somewhere around the world. Just like spring floods, we seem to have
that 100-year mark. Today, we are experiencing the 100-year flu, COVID-19
Wikipedia describes the Spanish Flu (1918-1920) as originating in one of
three countries China, United Kingdom or the United States. Here is a
summary of the effects of the flu during World War One, that had already
demoralized many American.
"The Spanish flu, also known as the 1918 flu pandemic, was an unusually
deadly influenza pandemic. Lasting from January 1918 through December 1920,
it infected 500 million people-about a quarter of the world's population.
The death toll is estimated to have been anywhere from 17 million to 50
million, and possibly as high as 100 million, making it one of the deadliest
epidemics in human history."
We have no where reached these numbers around the world yet. We have
front-line weapons to fight the COVID-19 they did not have back then such as
indoor plumbing, Clorox Wipes, hand sanitizers and much more. These will
surely keep the numbers down and not exceed the 1918 pandemic.
I have a story of a blind woman and the Spanish Flu, Fannie Opdyke to help
us put these times into perspective and to realize that we are in control of
our destiny even now. We, the blind will triumph through these trying times
and come out better for it, just like Fannie.
Fannie was born in New York in 1886. She attended the New York School for
the Blind in Batavia, learning among other skills, typing. She graduated in
1908, moved to New York City and joined the Blind Women's Club.
Fannie became a secretary at the law offices of attorney Catherine V. Curry.
Her duties included writing letters from a graphophone in the offices. Her
employer commended Fannie on how fast she picked up the graphophone and the
accuracy of her work, noting that she was just as good, if not better than
the other secretaries in her office. Fannie could type accurately, 70 words
a minute. Through mapping out the forms, understanding how far to roll a
form into the typewriter and how far to space over, Fannie was able to fill
out the necessary legal forms without sighted assistance.
She also worked as a Typist/Dictaphone operator in New York City's
Condemnation Department in the City's court system, excelling at her work.
She was also quite adept at the six-key, shorthand machine used at that time
by many secretaries.
As the Flu epidemic began, hitting New York City hard, Fannie and another
blind girlfriend, Clara Barnum, about 10 years older, decided to take a huge
risk and take the train to move to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where they soon
found typing jobs.
Fannie took a job with the law offices of W.C. Reid, the attorney for the
Atchison Topeka and the Santa Fe Railroads. Her employer told the New York
School for the blind that because of her skill, Fannie had a higher rate of
pay than many of the secretaries in the office and soon became the lead
secretary in the office, earning a salary of $90 a month.
Just as she had done in New York, Fannie reached out to join groups for the
blind as there were no groups of the blind in New Mexico, but found that she
was often ignored by the sighted society women when she tried to get the
Friendship League for the Blind of Albuquerque to promote braille and to
help provide canes to the adult blind of Albuquerque to become better and
independent travelers. Later, she did have an impact and was inspirational
in some of the first braille classes in Albuquerque for blind adults.
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