Annie Lord (b.1899): Disabilities – Part One – Writing Lives

Annie Lord (b.1899): Disabilities – Part One

“I was Born deaf in one ear, But was never found out those days till late in life, even at school I did not have a chance…” 

Lord, p: 1

As a child, Annie frequently struggled at school because she was born deaf in one ear. It is possible that she went through numerous years of her education before being diagnosed, as she highlights that; “… was never found out those days till late in life…” (Lord, p: 1). However, she does not divulge exactly when she was made aware of her medical condition. Furthermore, in school she; “… did not stand a chance could never make any head way…” (Lord, p: 1). Thus, her deafness restricted her from learning and progressing in any form of academia and so her time in education was hard and short-lived. 

Although Annie struggled with anything academically related, she did enjoy singing and dancing; “… all I can Remember is that I use[d] to sing and dance well…” (Lord, p: 1). Annie talks of how she auditioned for Gilbert and Sullivan’s, Chorus Girls, around the age of sixteen. However, she states; “… directly they found out I was deaf…” (Lord, p: 1). Thus, she was unable to find joy in something she loved doing, due to constant rejection. Her disability is a topic that Annie regularly discusses and refers back to throughout her memoir. 

As Annie was unable to achieve an acceptable standard of work during her time in school, she decided to leave at the age of fourteen, in order to find a job. This she had no problem doing, “I had plenty of jobs.” (Lord, p: 2). However, she struggled to maintain and keep her jobs once her employers discovered that she struggled to hear them, “I lost some good ones owing to deafness, But that I had to take…” (Lord, p: 2). Furthermore, her disability does not discriminate in terms of what parts of Annie’s life it disrupts, as within the first two pages of her memoir, Annie has documented two, major milestones in her life that she was unable to entirely enjoy or benefit from, because of her disability. Thus, despite not being able to physically see Annie’s disability, it was still very prevalent throughout her life.

Even though Annie’s disability was not visible, it was still extremely stressful and often debilitating for her. 

In, Recovering Bodies: Illness, Disability, and Life-Writing, Nancy Mairs, an author who rather openly and plaining writes of her life as a disabled woman, speaks of how drastically being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis impacted her life . She writes, “Suddenly, you feel lopped off from the social body, shut up here in this bright little box, unutterably alone.” (Mairs, p: 4). The loneliness Mairs feels immediately after her diagnosis is an aspect Annie can relate to. However, Mairs describes how she refuses to let her disability define her, “Fortunately, this historic state tends not to last. You set about doing whatever has to be done: buy a cane, go to physical or occupational therapy, schedule surgery, join a support group, revise your will.” (Mairs, p: 4). Thus, in comparison to Mairs, even though Annie accepts her deafness as a part of who she is, her overall attitude towards her disability is not particularly positive. Mairs goes on to say, “Being a social creature as well, you soon long for the guidance and companionship of other sufferers and, as you begin to get the hang of your situation, to serve as a guide and companion yourself.” (Lord, p: 4). Morever, as Annie does not have a suitable companion to share her struggles with, she carries this burden ‘over her shoulders’ alone. This means that, even though she embraces her disability, she still blames numerous negative happenings in her life, on the fact she is partially deaf.

G. Thomas Couser, Recovering Bodies: Illness, Disability, and Life-Writing. This book contains Nancy Mairs foreword about her own, personal experiences when living with a disability.

Furthermore, it is clear that Annie’s disability affected many aspects of her life. Despite the fact she mentions so many other happenings that occurred during her life, deafness is a subject matter that fits into every topic she talks about. Such as, her childhood, education, career and throughout my next blog, I will also be considering the ways in which it affected her marriage and personal life. As a result of Annie frequently referring back to her disability, it highlights that generally speaking, this memoir is primarily about disabilities. Thus, due to the negative impact this had throughout the majority of her life, it is clear to see why Annie often blames her misfortunes on the fact she was born deaf. 

Works Cited:

Couser, G Thomas (2006). Recovering Bodies: Illness, Disability and Life-writing. Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press . 4-8. (Foreword by Nancy Mairs)

Lord, Annie. ‘My Life,’ Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection Library, 2:486.

Images used:

Not all disabilities are visible. From: The Assembly Blog: 

Recovering Bodies: Illness, Disability, and Life-Writing. From: The University of Wisconsin Press: 

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