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#womenshistory: 22 January


22 JANUARY 1874: Josie Wood, born in Grahamstown on 22 January 1874, was a teacher and artist who singlehandedly created what is today the largest free braille and audio book resource in Africa.

Josie started South Africa's first library for the blind in her Grahamstown home in 1919 with a small collection of braille volumes she acquired from Eleanor Comber, a British nurse who had been stationed in the area.

Initially, she funded the library herself, even selling her own artworks to keep it active.

However, in 1923 she established a formal library committee to give the library official status, and in 1929 she co-founded the National Council for the Blind.

By 1930, the library had managed to secure international funding, including a grant from the Carnegie Corporation in New York, which secured independent premises and vastly expanded services and resources.

Josie Wood passed away in 1965 - two years before the library was formally declared the South African National Library for the Blind. She was 91. Still based in Grahamstown, her passion project is now the leading resource for the visually impaired on the African continent.


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