Though Samuel Bean was deprived of both hearing and sight following an unexpected injury in childhood, every report of him during his high school years portrayed a cheerful character unfazed by the profoundness of these challenges.
Some of you, commenting on Sam’s situation as I’ve been documenting it this month, have surmised that the real story behind Sam’s success may very well have been owing to the determination and unwavering support of his mother, Ella Shields Bean.
That may be so. At least, it is probable that Ella Bean played a strong supporting role during Sam’s time post-injury and throughout his school years at Berkeley.
Mary White Eastman.
Miss Eastman was an interesting case in her own right. She was not a California native, but was born on October 2, 1870, in Grand Haven, Michigan. On the Ottawa County birth records, her father, Galen Eastman, was listed as a “lumberman” from Massachusetts. Galen’s wife, the former Mary Ferry, was a Michigan native, and mother of twelve more children beside her namesake.
I have yet to determine just how—and when—Mary White Eastman became blind, but I do know that by 1892, her father and a brother (Thomas) were registered to vote 2,300 miles away in San Francisco. In that same year, a San Francisco Call article on June 8 reported on the graduation exercises at the Berkeley Institute, in which Mary White Eastman was among the eight students graduating—as well as participating in the special event with an organ solo “which was very cleverly done.”
By the time of the 1910 census, Mary White Eastman was living in a boarding house in San Francisco, listing herself as a public school teacher—very possibly at the California School for the Deaf and Blind.
In 1912, the California Voter Registration records show Miss Eastman signed up to vote—Republican, by the way—and living at 4021 Seventeenth Street in San Francisco’s Assembly District 26. While this may seem a surprise to those remembering the date as 1920 for passage of the nineteenth amendment, in California, full suffrage was granted by vote in passage of Proposition Four in 1911. Miss Eastman, no doubt, wasted no time in making her voice heard in matters of consequence.
Shortly after Sam’s graduation from the California School for the Deaf and Blind in Berkeley, an article about his instructor appeared in The Christian Register. The August 7, 1919, article in the Unitarian Church’s publication gave a short biographical sketch of Miss Eastman under the title, “The Undaunted Blind.” From all the newspaper reports I’ve read about her star student, I can’t help but notice how the outlook on life that seemed Sam’s hallmark was actually represented here in the article on his teacher and mentor.
See what you think.
Miss Mary White Eastman, herself blind, is an active worker for the blind in California, where she is a teacher in the California State School for the Blind. She holds classes in the San Francisco Home for the Blind, and is a director in the Association for the Prevention for Blindness. Miss Eastman, aside from her classes, goes to the homes of the blind to teach them. In every case she tries to teach her pupil what he is best adapted to, be it cane-seating, brush-making, rug-weaving, geometry, or history,—whatever the pupil is most interested in. Miss Eastman’s pupils vary in age from eight months to ninety-four years. She refuses to admit that blind persons are to be pitied. If treated as normal, they acquire self-reliance and independence, and in most cases can continue to do, after blindness, all the things they could do before they became blind. In Miss Eastman’s opinion, the “loving friends and relatives” of the blind are usually a great hindrance to them and are in need of education in regard to the way the blind should be treated.