Lydia Sigourney was a popular writer for children and adults when this piece was printed in the Youth’s Magazine. “Do Your Duty to Your Brothers and Sisters” is a passionate paean to good sibling relationships, with examples that include two deaf girls. That one dies is all-too-typical in works by Sigourney and other writers of the time.
“Do Your Duty to Your Brothers and Sisters,” by L. H. S. [Lydia H. Sigourney] (from Youth’s Magazine, July 7, 1837; pp. 230-232)

If your Father in heaven has blessed you with such relations, you must be

p. 231

very grateful for his kindness. Treat them with the most affectionate regard. If they are older and wiser than you are, take their advice and follow their example. If they are younger, do all in your power to teach them, and make them good.—Never speak unkindly, or indulge anger toward them. Remember if they should be taken from you by death, how unhappy such remembrances would make you. There was once a little boy, who was often seen at the grave of a brother, younger than himself, who suddenly died. He used to sit down upon the grave and weep bitterly. A friend led him away, and asked him why he mourned so long for his brother. He answered, sobbing, “Because I did not love him more when he was alive.” If you are out of patience with a brother or sister, remember how you would wish to have treated them, should death take them from you, or you from them. It is a great misfortune to have no brother or sister. Some children have no such companions, and grow up in loneliness. When they study their lessons, there is no older brother or sister to explain or encourage them. When they come home from school, there are no little feet to run and meet them, no glad voice to say, “How glad I am to see you, dear brother or sister,” and no sweet babe for them to take in their arms and kiss. And when they grow up, and are sick and sorrowful, there will be none to whom they can say, my sister, or my brother when they pour out the burdens of their hearts.

Kindness and affection between children of the same family is delightful to an observer. I never knew it more sweetly displayed than by two little deaf and dumb sisters. Their names were Phoebe and Frances Hammond. When the youngest began to walk, the other was always by her side to assist her tottering steps. When they were permitted to play out of doors, Phoebe took care of Frances, who was two and a half years younger than herself. If she saw any thing coming, which she feared would hurt her, she clasped her in her arms with the utmost tenderness. She was never out of patience with the little one, or tired of performing any labor for her. They were not able to speak because they were deaf and dumb, but they looked at each other with the sweetest smiles, and by the signs which they invented, and the tender language of the eyes, understood each other’s wants and sorrows, and pleasures. If one received a gift, she divided it with the other; or if it could not be divided was considered as the property of both. So entire was their love, that it seemed as if one heart animated both bodies.

When the youngest was but seven years old, they were both sent many miles from their parents, to the asylum for the deaf and dumb, in Hartford, Connecticut. Here they were left among strangers. But they took their seats pleasantly with the one hundred and forty pupils. When the lessons of the day were over they comforted each other with their sisterly love. Phoebe tried to be mother to Frances. She taught her to keep her clothes without spot or stain, and put every article she used in its right place. She led her by the hand wherever she went, and if there were any tears on her cheeks, she kissed them away. Little Frances

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looked up to her with the most endearing confidence.

When they went home to spend their vacations, the affection of these sweet silent sisters was admired by every one. In 1829, Phoebe was taken sick of a consumption. She was obliged to leave the Asylum, and go to her parents. She wished every day to be carried into a room, and left [a]lone, that she might pray to her Father in Heaven. “I am so weak,” she said “that I shall die. I pray to go to Heaven. I wish Frances to love God. She is my good sister.” When asked if she wished to be restored to health she replied, “No, I would see Jesus.”* And in quietness and peace she departed to be with the Lord.

Now the constant affection which gave so much happiness to those little silent sisters, is a good example to those who are blessed with the power of hearing and speech. Let all, therefore who have brothers or sisters, perform their duty to them, and the God of love will bless them.

* This doubtless was communicated by signs, or writing.

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