Future Reflections January/February 1983, Vol. 2 No. 1

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The author of the article "Let Your Blind Child in the Kitchen, Mom", page 9 this issue, was born Ruth Erickson in 1914. When she was a child, "mainstreaming" was unknown. However education in residential schools for the blind was far advanced over the education available for many other groups of disabled children. She attended schools for the blind in Nebraska, Illinois, and Iowa, and was intrigued to notice that the architecture and landscaping of all three were very similar. She learned that all three schools had been founded and planned by Samuel Bacon, who was a pioneer in the education of the blind and was himself blind.

At a time when few blind people were employed, she prepared for a career in education. After completing courses of study at Iowa State Teachers College (now the University of Northern Iowa) and Harvard graduate school, she taught multiply-handicapped children for a time, and later taught blind fourth graders. She had considerable difficulty finding employment, due to prejudice and misunderstanding about the abilities of a blind teacher.

For a time during World War II she worked in a WP A project, transcribing books into Braille by hand with a slate and stylus.

In 1943 she married Dr. Robert Pirtle, a blind chiropractor who helped to open employment in that field to blind persons. While living in Onawa, Iowa, Ruth Pirtle built upon a long-time interest and enjoyment and began teaching dancing. At first she charged nothing, believing that no one would pay a blind dancing teacher. As her confidence increased, however, she began to charge fees for her thriving studio offering tap, ballet, and toe dancing.

She learned that the National Federation of the Blind was working for the goals that meant so much to her . . . security, equality, and opportunity for all blind people. Wanting to be part of this nationwide movement, she joined the Iowa affiliate of theNFB.

After Dr. Pirtle's untimely death in 1957, Ruth Pirtle joined the staff of the Iowa Commission for the Blind. She became part of an exciting and successful effort to build up Iowa's agency for the blind under the leadership of Kenneth Jernigan.

After one year as a home teacher for blind clients, she became home economics teacher at the new Iowa Orientation Center for the adult blind. She guided hundreds of blind teenagers and adults into an independent and active life. Ruth Schroeder (now married to W. H. Schroeder, also a blind chiropractor), together with Doris Willoughby, has set her experience down in a booklet entitled Suggestions for the Blind Cook (see page 10 this issue).

Now retired, Ruth Schroeder continues a busy life. She cooks and entertains, plays the organ, and is a member of the church bell choir. She also remains active in the National Federation of the Blind.

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