The Isabelle Grant Collection
- Created: 1913-1975
- Other: Majority of material found in 1949-1975
- Other: Date acquired: 12/20/2010
Conditions Governing Access
Conditions Governing Use
3.50 Linear Feet
3.5 linear feet (6 boxes) + 1 rolled tube, 3 oversize folders other_unmapped
Biographical or Historical Information
Isabelle Lyon Dean Grant was born in 1896 in Lossiemouth, Moray, UK, on the coast of northeastern Scotland. Grant attended school in the nearby town of Elgin and received her leaving papers in 1913. Under her maiden name she earned a master's degree with honors from the University of Aberdeen in 1917 and then taught in Scotland and England until 1922. It is unclear when she married her husband, Alexander Lewis Grant, but it was sometime before 1924 because their Ellis Island passenger records show that they were married when they immigrated to the United States that year. In 1927 Grant became a teacher in the Los Angeles City Schools and began helping minority youths in the schools and the California court system, often serving as an interpreter for those who could not speak English. In 1929 Grant received a degree from the University of Paris, Institute of Phonetics, and she studied at the University of Madrid in 1938. She received her doctor of philosophy degree from the University of Southern California in 1940. Her husband, who had worked as a physician in Los Angeles, passed away in the early 1940s. After his death, Grant continued to work her way up through the Los Angeles City Schools and was a vice principal for girls at Belvedere Junior High School in the late 1940s.
By the end of 1948 Grant had lost her sight to acute glaucoma. Discouraged by the advice she received at the Braille Institute of America, a friend introduced Grant to James B. Garfield, president of the Los Angeles County Club of the Adult Blind, a chapter of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). Grant was impressed by both the organization and its philosophy, and she became a devoted member in January of 1949 when her school district ruled that she would be required to take a disability retirement from teaching. With the help of the NFB and many of her colleagues at Belvedere, Grant fought and won the right to remain employed by the district. As a result, she became the first blind teacher in the state of California. The school district transferred her to Polytechnic High School in Los Angeles, where she began her tenure as a blindness resource teacher. Grant continued to work for the Los Angeles City Schools until her retirement in 1962, but ongoing misunderstandings with administrators about the capabilities of blind people led the district to transfer Grant to Belmont High School (1955) and later to Washington Irving Junior High School (1958). In 1954 she received her credentials for teaching the blind from San Francisco State College. And in 1956 she launched a volunteer Braille transcribers' class under the Adult Education Program while working at Belmont High School in Los Angeles.
Dr. Grant believed deeply in the importance of schooling blind children alongside their sighted peers and sought to promote this idea both within the United States and in developing countries. In 1959 she received the first of two awards from the Fulbright-Hays Program to work with Pakistani educators and officials on the education of the blind. For this trip, she took a year's sabbatical from her teaching position and traveled to twenty-three countries (including Pakistan) to study the education and rehabilitation of blind children. She also helped to establish the Pakistan Association of the Blind. Dr. Grant would become known as a globe-trotter, with this trip proving to be the first of many. Throughout Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia, Grant spread her ideals of education for the blind, helped in the formation of blind-led organizations, and assisted in the establishment of several libraries for the blind. During all of her trips, Grant traveled alone with her long white cane, affectionately named Oscar by one of her students. She is believed to be the first blind woman to travel alone around the world five times. Grant wrote two autobiographical book-length manuscripts about her travel experiences, which were not published: "Crooked Paths Made Straight" (1965) and "Africa Passbook" (1970).
Over the years, Grant was involved with several organizations of the blind at the local, national, and international levels. She held many official positions and was directly involved in the founding of specialized divisions and groups devoted to students and educators within larger blindness organizations. In 1960 she was made an honorary member of the Board of Directors of the NFB, a position she would hold for almost seventeen years. That year she also helped to organize the blind teachers division for the California Council of the Blind (CCB), which was the name of the California affiliate of the NFB at that time. In 1962 she was elected as an executive officer of the CCB and also became a trustee of the American Brotherhood of the Blind (now called the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults). She assisted in the founding of the International Federation of the Blind (IFB) in 1964 and went on to serve as its treasurer, liaison officer, and eventually third vice president. In 1965 she helped found the Blind Teacher's Conference in the State of California. Grant served as the delegate of the NFB at the first convention of the IFB in Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in 1969. She also edited the International Federation of the Blind Ceylon Report, a souvenir magazine of the first convention, and later Grant served as the editor of the IFB's publication, The Braille International. In 1971 Grant helped establish the IFB's Student Division. The same year she helped found the Students Braille Library, Inc., in Los Angeles, California, and served on its executive board. Grant also worked as a sponsor and advisor to the Associated Blind College Students of Los Angeles. Between trips abroad Grant collected Braille books, Braille writers, Braille paper, and blindness-related products and aids, which she sent to individuals and organizations overseas.
Dr. Grant was the recipient of many awards throughout her career as an educator and for her work with the blind, including the following:
Dr. Grant's work on behalf of the world's blind was never finished. She served as an active member and officer of both the IFB and the NFB up until her death in June 1977. She died the day before she was scheduled to fly to New York to speak about the needs of the blind before the United Nations.
Note written by Anna Kresmer
Correspondence in both print and Braille has been arranged chronologically. Photographs and oversized materials have been placed in separate housing. Where appropriate Braille labels and tags have been left attached to print documents. The collection is organized into five series and four subseries.
Physical Access Requirements
Method of Acquisition
Other Descriptive Information
- American Brotherhood for the Blind
- Blind Travel
- Blind teachers
- Blind – Education
- California Council of the Blind
- Discrimination in employment
- Grant, Isabelle
- International Federation of the Blind
- Los Angeles Unified School District
- Mainstreaming in education.
- National Federation of the Blind
- Social Advocacy
- Students with disabilities – Education (Secondary) – United States.
- Students with disabilities – Education – Africa.
- Students with disabilities – Education – Pakistan.
- TenBroek, Jacobus
- Archon Finding Aid Title
- Anna Kresmer
- Description rules
- Language of description