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JPR Feature
Grace Sweeney   
Thursday May 5, 2005
By Dawna Curler

Welcome to As It Was: Tales from the State of Jefferson

The Americans with Disabilities Act, known as ADA, ensures equal employment opportunities for people with disabilities. If it existed when Grace Sweeney started her career, she may have met her goal in a more direct way.

Grace was born in 1912 with a cleft pallet that affected her speech. One of her greatest desires was to be a teacher, but at that time her speech impairment made her ineligible for a teaching credential. That didn't stop her.

After college graduation in 1934, she returned to her Surprise Valley home in northeast California. There she married, raised four children and wrote a column for the Surprise Valley newspaper. Grace played piano for her church and provided music for weddings, funerals, and graduations. She also shared her musical ability by teaching piano to two generations of local children and she worked with youngsters as a 4-H club leader for nearly forty years.

In 1962, the Cedarville Elementary School was short of substitute teachers - Grace was asked to fill in. She proved herself capable in spite of the impairment and found herself working regularly as a substitute teacher.

Grace Sweeney died in 1990, the year ADA became law, opening closed doors for many people. But Grace Sweeney couldn't wait. She opened her own doors.

Today's episode of As It Was was written by Dawna Curler, the program engineer is Raymond Scully.  I'm Shirley Patton. As It was is a co-production of JPR and the Southern Oregon Historical Society.  To Share stories or learn more about the series visit asitwas - dot- org
Gooch, Sara editor. "Grace Steiner Sweeney 1912-1990," The Journal of the Modoc County Historical Society, No. 4, 1992. pp 179-181 and internet source: HTTP://WWW.USDOJ.GOV/CRT/ADA/PUBLICAT.HTM#AUCHOR-ADA44867, Department of Justice ADA Regulations and Technical Assistance and HTTP://WWW.ADATA.ORG/WHATSADA-HISTORY.HTML, Historical Context of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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