Catherine Hale

Hale House for the Blind, 1930
Hale House for the Blind, 1930. Courtesy of the Missouri Valley Special Collections.

Catherine Hale was determined that her brother would not miss out on everyday pleasures simply because he was blind. She taught him to play cards and dance well. When he joined The Workers for the Blind of Greater Kansas City in 1911, she accompanied him to his meetings. Her lifelong devotion to helping Kansas City’s blind citizens had begun.

Born in 1868, Hale descended from Nebraska pioneers. She came to Kansas City in the early 1900s with her husband, James H. Hale, who worked for a packing company. In 1916, Hale helped The Workers for the Blind incorporate as the Kansas City Association for the Blind.

Hale’s first task was to found a home for blind women. She wanted a place for the women to be cared for if their families could not do so. The group quickly outgrew the first home at 2908 Flora Avenue and moved to 2918 Tracy Avenue, a location that was rebuilt and expanded several times. The home was named by the residents as the Catherine Hale Home and housed up to 40 women, some living there more than 20 years.

After she assured herself that Kansas City had a reliable residence for blind women, Hale took on the task of providing employment for blind men. She founded a workshop that made brooms, mats and other hand-made items. The workshop was self-supporting within six months and soon employed women.

Although Hale died in 1947, her work continues in Kansas City today. The Hale Home provided care until it closed in 1981, when the organization sought greater integration of the blind in the general community. The various workshops spawned by the broom factory eventually developed into the Alphapointe Project, which provides training and employment today for the visually impaired. The Kansas City Association for the Blind changed its name in 1993 to Alphapointe Association for the Blind to encourage others to recognize their members as people first, rather than by their disability.

Hale’s brother, a remarkable card player and a graceful dance partner, was the first of many sightless to succeed, thanks to his sister’s caring, enthusiasm and drive.

Acknowledgement: 

A version of this article previously appeared at http://www.kchistory.org/content/biography-catherine-hale-1868-1947-foun...

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