Essay on White Cane History

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WHITE STICK AS SYMBOL OF BLINDNESS - HISTORY (From RNIB reference library information file)

An Englishman and a Frenchwoman both claim to have originated the idea.

1921 - James Biggs of Bristol (as he claims in New Beacon article, Dec. 1937, pp. 320/321) thought of idea of painting his stick white -- wrote to various institutions, Chief Constables, newspapers, magazines, etc...

1930 - First reference in New Beacon (December, p. 265) to white stick - "In Paris, the Prefect of Police is supporting the idea that blind pedestrians shall carry white sticks"

1931 - February - Mlle Guilly d'Herbemont, with the assistance of one of the editors of l'Echo de Paris launched national white stick movement in
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In the process of helping individual blind people across the road, Mademoiselle d'Herbemont was made aware by narrow scrapes which almost led to accidents, of the precarious situation of the visually impaired brought about by the steadily increasing traffic on the roads. She first spoke about measures to protect the blind against street hazards to her mother in 1930, but she was of the opinion that it was unfit for a lady of good society to create a public outcry and advised her to stick to the transcription of books, a popular pastime of ladies of rank at the time.

But the idea did not leave her. The urgent wish to encourage the integration of the blind into society by providing them with a means of moving about more freely without endangering others, and at the same time attracting the attention of passers-by ready to offer assistance, caused her to take the, for her class, unusual step of writing to the editor of the Paris daily “Echo de Paris” in which she suggested issuing the blind of the Paris region with white sticks similar to those used by the traffic police. The editor took up the idea, published it in November 1930 and saw to it that the relevant authorities acted with atypical speed. Thus it was that the white cane received official backing, and on 7th February 1931 Peguilly d'Herbemont, during a small celebration in the presence of the minister of war, Maginot, as well as the ministers of

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