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California Library Hall of Fame: Kate Foley
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California Library Hall of Fame

Kate M. Foley (1873-1940)

Born in East Saint Louis, IL, in 1873, Kate Foley became blind, as an infant, due to a common childhood infection, ophthalmia neonatorum. After moving to Los Angeles, she was sent to Berkeley to attend the California Institute for the Deaf and Dumb and Blind (now the California School for the Blind), where she graduated in 1895. Unable to find employment, she volunteered to teach other blind people to read raised print. Hearing of her work, state librarian James Gillis hired Foley, in 1914, to help carryout the mission of the state library’s Books for the Blind division. Although her primary duty was to teach others how to read raised print, she also assisted with basic living skills, such as grooming, cooking, and transportation. In 1917, Foley started a public school class for blind children in Los Angeles, the first in the state. She also advocated for safety laws to prevent blindness, taught conservation classes, encouraged sighted individuals to use blind-owned businesses, and organized volunteers to transcribe reading materials into raised type. Foley served as second vice president of the American Association of Workers for the Blind and was chair of the American Braille Commission. She worked for the California state library until her death in 1940.


Kate Foley was inducted into the California Library Hall of Fame in 2015. For more information about her, please see the following:

-Kate M. Foley. Five Lectures on Blindness. Sacramento: State Printing Office, 1919.

- Frances Koestler. The Unseen Minority: A Social History of Blindness in the United States. NY: SFB Press, 2004.

- Paul E. Ponchillia and Susan V. Ponchillia. Foundations of Rehabilitation Teaching with Persons Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired. NY: AFB Press, 1996.

Photo credit: Stanton, A. “Interesting westerners.” Sunset, 35, (1915, November), 954.