Lydia Young Hayes (1871-1943)
Jersey gem: Career based in NJ
Lydia Young Hayes organized and directed the New Jersey Commission for the Blind. As an eight-year-old, Hayes suffered a debilitating injury on her family’s farm — a bull charged at the girl and the related injuries caused her to lose sight in both eyes. From that moment on, Hayes dedicated her life to improving the treatment and education of fellow blind citizens.
In 1909, Hayes was appointed by President Woodrow Wilson as the first CEO of the New Jersey Commission for the Blind. She continued in this role until 1937 when she was elected as the Commission’s education and research consultant.
Throughout her career, Hayes emphasized the obligations of the blind to society and did not support the segregation of the blind population into separate educational institutions. Thanks to Hayes and her advocacy work, the state of New Jersey provided Braille classes to blind students as part of the public school curriculum.