“‘Blind Granny’, c17-18th century. Image © Royal College of Physicians
Title on print: Blind Granny Stipple by unknown artist, date unknown Size: 21.3 cm x 13.1 cm
Blind Granny was an elderly lady who lived in London around the turn of the 18th century. She was called ‘Blind Granny’ or even ‘Lady Granny’, but her real name is unknown. She was famous for the length of her tongue (the medical term today is macroglossia), with which she would lick her blind eye in return for money to buy beer. She was also thought to have mental health issues. Despite the proximity of Bethlem Hospital (known as ‘Bedlam’), an institution for people who were commonly referred to as ‘lunatics’ from 1377, she was accepted by the local population as an eccentric living within their midst. She was considered a ‘character’ in her London locality and was celebrated in verses of the time.
**Liz Porter, focus group participant:** ‘I don’t like the fact that she hasn’t got a name … her impairment is her title. With the others they are given a name.’
**Tim Gebbels, focus group participant:** ‘ … it touches off that whole debate about how individuals regard impairments today in society and how collectively we talk about impairments via the media. There is generally a perception, not articulated as crudely as this, that anyone with mental health issues is a potential rampager … and a danger to others, whereas with the vast majority of people with mental health issues that isn’t the case. And there’s also the image that people with mental health issues are … fairly low functioning often, which is given to us … by a tabloid media, which is not true …’ **Jane Stemp, focus group participant:** ‘ … she is portrayed with a jug of beer, she has got what she wants. So there’s some kind of, you know, there’s some kind of success for her in that.’
**Aidan Moesby, focus group participant:** ‘But in that image she doesn’t look like she’s pleased that she’s got the beer. She doesn’t look like she’s kind of enjoying or engaging with it … ’
**Jane Stemp, focus group participant:** ‘So is it ironic that her image has more power than she does? … her image is doing the rounds and getting seen and letting us know about her.’”