Roberta A. Griffith

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Roberta A. Griffith
Portrait of a white woman against a dark background. Her eyes are closed. Her hair is wavy, parted at center, and dressed back. The yoke of her dress is heavily embroidered.
Roberta Anna Griffith

1867 (or 1870)
DiedJanuary 24, 1941
Grand Rapids, Michigan
OccupationCommunity leader
Years active1900-1941
Known forFounder of Grand Rapids Association for the Blind; active in the American Foundation for the Blind, other national organizations

Roberta Anna Griffith (1867 or 1870 – January 24, 1941) was an American journalist and community leader, active in the American Foundation for the Blind and founder of the Grand Rapids Association of the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Early life[edit]

Roberta Anna Griffith was born in Pennsylvania in 1867 (some sources give 1870), the daughter of Annie Griffith; she became blind in infancy.[1] She attended the Michigan School for the Blind in Lansing, and the Ohio School for the Blind in Columbus. She was the first blind graduate of the women's college of Western Reserve University in 1891.[2][3][4]


Griffith was a freelance journalist as a young woman, contributing articles and essays to newspapers, and began a six-volume "dictionary for the blind", incorporating her own ideas about simplified spelling and other adaptations. In 1900, a dam broke in Grand Rapids, damaging her home and destroying her manuscripts. Later that year, she became president of a state-wide employment bureau for blind Michigan residents,[5][6] and was one of the founders of the American Association of Workers for the Blind.[2] She was also an officer of the Michigan Blind People's Association.[7]

Griffith helped establish a blind reading room in the Grand Rapids Public Library, and in 1913 founded the city's Association of the Blind.[2] She led the association for almost thirty years,[8] creating training programs and social opportunities for adults, sight-saving programs for schoolchildren, and supporting preventive care for infants.[2][9] In 1919 Griffith was appointed to a newly-established position, Director of Extension Education for the Blind, in the Michigan Department of Public Instruction.[10] She also served on a scholarship committee for blind students at the University of Michigan.[11] Later in life, she raised funds for the nursery program at the Michigan School for the Blind.[12][13]

Griffith attended the 1921 meeting of the American Association of Workers for the Blind, in Iowa, and became a founding member of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). She worked with Helen Keller on various AFB projects, including a standardization of English-language braille.[2] "I have tried to leader a normal life among normal people," she wrote in 1913, "and to do fully as much for others as others do for me."[14]

Personal life[edit]

Griffith enjoyed traveling alone, and visiting blind communities in other American states.[15] She died in Grand Rapids in 1941, in her early seventies.[4][16] She left her home and other assets to the Association for the Blind.[2] She was inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame in 1993.[17]


  1. ^ "Blind Men May be Motor Repairers". Detroit Free Press. 1918-01-17. p. 7. Retrieved 2020-07-01 – via
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Roberta Griffith...Empowered, not Impaired". ABVI. January–February 2016. Retrieved 2020-07-01.
  3. ^ Lewis, Norma; Vries, Jay de (2012). Legendary Locals of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Arcadia Publishing. p. 70. ISBN 978-1-4671-0023-6.
  4. ^ a b "Leader of Blind is Dead at G. R." The Ludington Daily News. 1941-01-25. p. 1. Retrieved 2020-07-01.
  5. ^ "The Employment Bureau for the Blind" The Problem (April 1900); on the Disability History Museum website.
  6. ^ Gould, George Milbry; Lloyd, James Hendrie (November 24, 1900). "An Employment Bureau for the Blind". The Philadelphia Medical Journal. 6: 977.
  7. ^ "Three from Grand Rapids; Michigan Blind People's Association Elect Officers". The Herald-Press. 1904-06-25. p. 1. Retrieved 2020-07-01 – via
  8. ^ "Problems of Blind Taken up at Meeting". Lansing State Journal. 1918-08-07. p. 10. Retrieved 2020-07-01 – via
  9. ^ Griffith, Roberta (Winter 1920). "Michigan: Grand Rapids Association for the Blind". Outlook for the Blind. 13: 100–101.
  10. ^ "Michigan". Outlook for the Blind. 13: 73. Autumn 1919.
  11. ^ "Scholarship for Blind Established". The Michigan Alumnus. 27: 280–281. February 1921.
  12. ^ "Nursery School Helped at Evening Reception". Lansing State Journal. 1939-04-28. p. 19. Retrieved 2020-07-01 – via
  13. ^ "Contribute to School". The Times Herald. 1940-05-03. p. 20. Retrieved 2020-07-01 – via
  14. ^ "Miss Roberta A. Griffith". Outlook for the Blind. 7: 86. Autumn 1913.
  15. ^ "Blind, But Leads the Blind". Oakland Tribune. 1924-04-05. p. 3. Retrieved 2020-07-01 – via
  16. ^ Cauffman, Josef G. (April 1941). "Roberta A. Griffith—An Appreciation". Outlook for the Blind. 35 (2): 49–50. doi:10.1177/0145482x4103500201. ISSN 0145-482X. S2CID 220535389.
  17. ^ "Roberta Griffith". Michigan Women Forward. Retrieved 2020-07-01.

External links[edit]