Laura Booth was born Laura Alice Begent in England in 1869, and became deaf when she was three as a result of scarlet fever and measles. After her father died in 1875, Laura’s mother brought the family of four to Australia. Laura attended the Institution at Darlington, where the Superintendent Samuel Watson became her teacher, ‘father, guide and friend’. It was at school that Laura met her future husband, Fletcher Booth. They were married in 1902, with Mr Watson giving the bride away.
Before her marriage, Laura had become a teacher at the Institute at the early age of 15. She stopped teaching at the school in the year she married, but she never gave up instruction and actively supported deaf people in her community for the rest of her life. In the early days of her marriage, the Booth home was open to any deaf person needing assistance and Laura frequently visited sick associates in their own homes. In 1902, Laura organised Bible Fellowship meetings for deaf women and kept these up every month until just a few years before her death. She was the President of the Adult Deaf and Dumb Society’s Deaf Ladies Committee for many years, and in this role she organised sewing classes, bazaars and entertainments. Every Christmas, Laura Booth acted as ‘Fairy Godmother’ to the children of deaf parents, organising presents and merriment for up to 70 children.
When the breakaway group the Association of Deaf & Dumb Citizens was formed, Laura supported her husband at the forefront of the new organization. She once again presided over the Association’s ‘Ladies Club’ – these ladies would call themselves ‘The Silent Servers’ when they organised functions. Laura was also on the Council of the new Association and continued to teach, giving ‘lecturettes’ to other deaf women on subjects such as ‘Things a Lady should know’.
When the Association amalgamated with the Deaf Society again in 1937, Laura Booth was made a Life Member of the Society. She began teaching in its Adult School, a class of about six adults aged between 19-49. These deaf people had never been able to attend school, because the NSW government failed to legislate for compulsory education for deaf children until the 1940s.
Laura Alice Booth died in 1946 at Waverly War Memorial Hospital, having contracted a serious illness the previous year. She was survived by her husband and her two sons, Eddie (deaf) and Keith (hearing). Her funeral service was conducted in the Deaf Society’s Helen Keller Chapel – the home of her Bible Classes over many years. The chapel was filled to overflowing as the ‘genial, helpful, sunny and cheerful’ Laura Booth was remembered for her tireless work before, during and after the formation of the Deaf Society.
The Silent Messenger – Xmas 1937 – 1938 DBR: 259
Annual report 1938-1939 DBR: 318
Annual report 1937-1938 DBR: 318
The Deaf Advocate, February December 1932 DBR: 261
The Deaf Advocate, December 1930 – June 1931 DBR: 253
Australia’s Oldest Deaf Worker – Mrs. F.S.Booth DBR: 34
SMH 15 February 1946 TROVE DBR: 425
SMH Saturday 16 August 1902 TROVE DBR: 424
History of the NSW Adult Deaf Society Organisation Work, Fletcher Booth DBR: 33
The Silent Messenger, February 1946 DBR: 266