Rotary District 1130
THE DISTRICT 1130 HISTORY
Prepared by the district and not verified by Rotary Global History
WHITE STICK AS SYMBOL OF BLINDNESS
Various people across the world have claimed to have originated the idea of issuing white sticks to the blind. In 1921 a blind English photographer, James Biggs of Bristol, as he claimed in an article in 'New Beacon' in December 1937, thought of the idea of painting his stick white. He wrote to various institutions, among them the Police and the Press but the idea does not seem to have become universal at that time.
There is, however, a reference in the same issue of' New Beacon', the monthly magazine of the British Royal National Institute for the Blind, to a French initiative. This says that, "In 1930 in Paris, the Prefect of Police is supporting the idea that blind pedestrians shall carry white sticks". In February 1931, Mlle Guilly d'Herbemont, with the assistance of one of the editors of l'Echo de Paris launched a national white stick movement in France. This was reported widely in the British press. The same year. the wife of E.J.Johnson, a Past President of the West Ham Rotary Club, suggested that the club should offer to supply white sticks to all 450 blind people in their area of East London. This would enable them to find walk more safely in both day and night.
The Club immediately and enthusiastically took up the idea and their offer was accepted by the local associations for the blind. Other Rotary Clubs began to copy the idea and the entire London district soon adopted the policy. In May, the BBC broadcast the suggestion that all blind persons should be provided with a white stick, which would be nationally recognised by the public, and a year later the RNIB began to produce and distribute these sticks. By 1935, 116 Rotary clubs across Britain and Ireland had "white stick" community service projects, and the idea soon spread around the world. In America, at about the same time, the Lions took on a similar role of distributing white sticks.
The original West Ham Rotary Club no longer exists but information has been supplied by PDG Alan Coleman via DG Colin Matthews of District 1130, and from 'A Century of Service' the RI Centenary book.
This partial history of D1130 provided by RGHF senior historian Basil Lewis, UK, 21 April 2008
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