Cam Sight Between the Wars In April 1921 it became a formally registered charity as the Cambridge Society for the Blind and within six months, re-named itself the Cambridgeshire Society for the Blind. Expand With the Blind Persons Act of 1920, it became possible to establish a formal register of local blind people and their care became the responsibility of the state in conjunction with local government and local voluntary organisations.The Cambridge Society was well placed to step in and help. In April 1921 it became a formally registered charity as the Cambridge Society for the Blind and within six months, re-named itself the Cambridgeshire Society for the Blind. It was given the responsibility by the county council for administering the Blind Persons Act and received a grant from the Ministry of Health. How was this money used? Two home teachers were employed who visited clients and taught Braille and handicrafts. In 1923 they made 2,444 visits to the 146 blind people who were on the register. Another activity was the distribution and maintenance of wireless radio sets distributed through the help of volunteers. The Society operated a Holidays Savings Club offering seven shillings for every pound saved by a blind person towards a holiday. The actual arrangement of the holiday, often at the seaside was undertaken by the Society. The work of the Society did not stop there. It bought craft implements for blind people taking up a trade and made money available to people buying a house or needing a housekeeper. Toys and school uniforms were purchased for children. After 1930 however, the grant from central government ceased and funding of the scheme was transferred to the local authority. You can read an example of meeting notes from 1920s, transcribed here. The Depression of the 1930s proved an enormous challenge for Cam Sight. In Parliament there were calls by Labour for the state to take over all responsibility for blind people but the National Government believed this would remove any incentive for blind people to earn a living. Cambridgeshire had an estimated two hundred blind people in the 1930s and the organisation made sure they were supported. Cam Sight collaborated with National Institute for the Blind and the National Library for the Blind to try to maintain the activities on offer. Finally, Cam Sight appealed to the public for funds to make sure visually impaired people did not suffer unduly at a time of deprivation. The only public money Cam Sight received was the grant from Cambridgeshire County Council but this had to be used for administration and training, not for assisting blind people in poverty. However, money raised by the Society through charitable donation was used for their care. In 1936, the Society actively championed the cause of blind people who were unemployed. Cambridgeshire was one of the few counties that looked after visually impaired people through the Victorian Poor Law which was coming to the end of its long life. The ‘dole’ was administered by the local Public Assistance Committee. On behalf of the Society, Mrs Rackham moved at a council meeting that that blind people should be relieved through the Blind Persons Act. Mrs Rackham disputed that the dole was adequate for the needs of blind people. In her view, an extra five shillings a week should be awarded to three blind people in the area who were destitute. Although Alderman Tebbutt for Cambridgeshire County Council resisted her proposal claiming that it was merely ‘sob stuff’, but the Committee came round to the idea and awarded the money. In terms of the services it provided, the Society was active in promoting the use of Braille as well as other skills useful for work. A young girl who was both deaf and blind, was provided with a home teacher by the Society who helped her to converse with others by manipulating the hand with a special code. The Society also assisted a man who lost his sight in middle age. He was helped to find work he could manage and ended up running a lodging house. The Society also developed a close working relationship with Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge. Cam Sight was organised by a committee of both sexes but is difficult to ignore the contribution of some formidable women, particularly Mrs. Adene. Mrs Adene was the Society’s president in the interwar years and she also chaired the local Maternity and Child Welfare Committee, which sought to prevent blindness in children. Charitable organisations like the Cambridgeshire Society gave women a distinctive social prominence. Mrs. Adene organised sales of goods that, she proudly proclaimed competed in price with goods made by sighted workers. Entertainment was provided through weekly club meetings and summer garden parties. Mrs Adene held a garden party at her home at Babraham Hall, that was attended by blind people from twenty villages in Cambridgeshire. Fund raising activities included local amateur dramatics in which blind members took part. Strong support for the Society’s work at local level came from churches in the Cambridge area. The Society continued to be active in promoting wireless (radio) for blind people and to ensure that sets were made available in many homes. The use of white sticks was an innovation in the 1930s and the Society received a grant for their purchase. The Society also helped to educate the public by arranging for a feature in the local press, which commented that the sticks should encourage sighted people to offer assistance and to allow the blind to ‘walk in the streets in safety and comfort’. It warranted the publication of a photograph of four blind people with their new sticks so that motorists and pedestrians would be aware of its meaning. During the Second World War, the Society played an active part by looking after forty five blind evacuee children. Change came with the end of the war when the county council took over many of its activities. After the war, Cambridgeshire Council took over all responsibility for the care of blind people and brought the Society’s home teachers under its control. The Society retained its shop however and its weekly Friday club for members. The Society became a limited company in 1950.