Research is one of the best parts of being a historical writer. I love learning about the past and incorporating true-to-life people and places in my stories.

In my debut novel, Under This Same Sky, one of my characters is blinded by an injury to the head. His loss of sight embarks him and his daughter, Becky, on an unexpected journey to what was then known as The Missouri Institute for the Education for the Blind.

The first schools for the blind were developed in Europe in the late 1700’s, but it wasn’t until the early 1800’s that America adopted the idea. Prior to that time, there was no formal training for those who were blind. They were often viewed as detriments to society or charity cases.

Set in 1854, Under This Same Sky takes place just three years after the Missouri School for the Blind was founded. I included the school’s founder, Eli Whelan, as one of my minor characters, doing my best to stay true to his nature in a fictional account.

It was Mr. Whelan’s belief that blind students had the ability to learn the same as sighted students. The Missouri Institute for the Education of the Blind offered a variety of avenues for blind students to achieve including music, craft work, and a formal education of the mind.

While Braille wasn’t adapted until 1860 in America, in 1854, at the time Under This Same Sky takes place, the St. Louis based school for the blind trained students to read using a raised letter system developed by a man named Samuel Howe. With the use of large, raised letters, blind students were able to read and write for the first time. The problem was, books were bulky and difficult to manage.

The Missouri Institute for the Education for the Blind eventually became what is now The Missouri School for the Blind. They also changed locations more than once due to a need for expansion. One such move occurred while my characters were attending the school. Not only do they endure the hardship of adapting to the new building, but also some added challenges of my own making. =)

While I’ve fictionalized many of the people and events surrounding the school for the blind, it is my prayer that readers will enjoy this added piece of history behind the Missouri School for the Blind. This institute, and others like it, are lighthouses for the blind for they provide purpose and hope to those who once had no such blessings.

Cynthia Roemer’s PRAIRIE SKY SERIES: Stories of faith and resilience on the Midwest prairie Inspirational Historical Romance


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