Deaf Culture: Learning About Julia Brace If you or someone you know is Deaf, you are aware of the rich Deaf community that exists in the world. Deaf people have a special bond and friendship that unites them. There are many key historical figures who mark important steps in Deaf history. One of these key historical figures is Julia Brace.
A Difficult Childhood Julia Brace was born to a poor family in Connecticut in 1807. She sadly contracted typhus fever when she was 5; the disease left her deaf and blind. After she became deaf and blind, Julia gradually stopped speaking. She started to use a rudimentary form of sign language with her parents, her own unique brand of home sign. Julia was sent to a regular boarding school that offered no special instruction for the deaf or blind. She was then offered a spot at the Hartford Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb, which is now called the American School for the Deaf. She started school at the Hartford Asylum in June of 1825, right before she turned 18. Julia was not given very much formal instruction at the Hartford Asylum, but she did learn to use tactile American Sign Language during her stay there.
Making the Best of It Julia grew to have a close relationship with many of the staff and students at the Hartford Asylum, forming close friendships with many of them. Julia was different from the staff and students because she was blind as well as deaf; everyone else was just deaf. Julia learned skilled like sewing and knitting while she was at the school, and greatly enjoyed these things. She began to be known as somewhat of a celebrity because of her deafblind status, and many people traveled to visit the Hartford Asylum to see her. Julia did not particularly enjoy people coming to visit the Asylum to gawk at her, and she was not afraid to tell them to go away. Despite being deaf and blind, Julia was known for being a very independent and strong-willed person. She did not let being deaf or blind stop her from doing what she wanted to do. Julia was also quite kind and gentle, and learned nursing skills that she used often.
Around 1837, a man named Samuel Gridley Howe made a visit to the Hartford Asylum. Howe was teaching a 7-year-old girl who deaf and blind the English language at the time. After four years of teaching this young girl, Howe went back to the Hartford school and asked Julia if she would like to be taught at his school. In 1842, Julia officially became a student of the Perkins School for the Blind, the school where Howe taught. However, Julia quickly made it known that she would rather communicate in sign language than through speaking, and she left the Perkins School after only a year. When she left the school, she went to live with her sister in Bloomfield, Connecticut. Julia died in August of 1884, at the age of 77. Julia stands as a beacon of hope for those who deaf and blind, a reminder that all people have the right to learn how to communicate in this world.