ASL (American Sign Language ) by Parhamr (Own work) Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

ASL (American Sign Language )
by Parhamr (Own work)
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Deaf & Dumb (unable to speak)


Entries concerning the history and development of services, treatment and education of persons classified as deaf and unable to speak. Historically, the word “dumb” identified persons unable to speak.

  • A Hard Life (1893)And now a pitiful yet inspiring story of another unfortunate child comes to us. She was born in Texas, and when fifteen months old had learned only two words -- mamma and papa. Then she had a serious illness, by which she lost eyesight and hearing, and was doomed to a life of imprisonment, into which no sound or ray of light could penetrate.
  • Alexander Graham Bell and His Role in Oral EducationBell continued his lifelong work of promoting oralism through publications, conferences, and other meetings until his death in August 1922. Bell often recollected that his greatest contribution was not the invention of the telephone, but his work in behalf of oral education. He liked to say that he was foremost a teacher of deaf children, as his father was. His enormous influence on deaf education can be traced in the trajectory of oralism and the rise of day schools. By the early twentieth century, oral methods dominated deaf education in the United States.
  • Asylum for the Deaf and DumbThe Connecticut Asylum for the Education and Instruction of Deaf and Dumb Persons, the first permanent school for deaf Americans, opened on April 15, 1817, in Hartford, Connecticut. At that time, "dumb" meant only "unable to speak" (as we still sometimes refer to someone being "dumbstruck") but in early America almost all those who were born deaf never learned to communicate with others except by home-made signs, and deaf people were often regarded as cognitively impaired as well. The initial impetus for a school for deaf people came from parents who wanted an education for their deaf children.
  • Bridgman, Laura DeweyHalf a century before Helen Keller, the "Original Helen Keller," Laura Dewey Bridgman, became the first deaf and blind person to learn a language. By the time that Helen Keller became famous in the early twentieth century, Bridgman's story had faded and been forgotten -- but like Keller, Bridgman moved souls around the world by triumphing over her multiple disabilities.
  • Bridgman, Laura: Early EducationSamuel Gridley Howe had multiple goals for his work with Laura Bridgman. On the one hand, he wanted to provide her with a thorough education. On the other hand, he hoped to use her as a means of revealing the process of human development and the true nature of humanity. Howe thought that because he could control much of Bridgman's sensory input, he would be able to better understand how people learned language, developed religious sensibilities, and other characteristic human abilities....
  • Clerc, Monsieur LaurentThomas Gallaudet had come to England to learn about education for the deaf in hopes of setting up a school in Connecticut. At Sicard's invitation, Gallaudet accompanied the Frenchmen back to Paris, where he spent some months at the Institution. When he grew homesick for Hartford, Laurent Clerc agreed to return with him and help him set up a school and be its first teacher.
  • Committee Of The Connecticut Asylum For The Education And Instruction Of Deaf And Dumb Persons (1817)It cannot be expected that any very interesting details respecting the pupils, should at this time be communicated: but it may be of use to record, in a very brief manner, the origin and progress of that institution, which takes the lead in this western world, in the instruction of those who have hitherto remained neglected and forgotten. About two years since, seven persons met in this city, and appointed a committee to solicit funds to enable Mr. Gallaudet to visit Europe, for the purpose of qualifying himself to become an Instructor of the deaf and dumb. The generous promptitude with which means were furnished, put it in his power to embark soon after for England. Not meeting with a satisfactory reception at the London Asylum, he went to Edinburgh.
  • Contract Between Thomas Gallaudet And Laurent Clerc (1816)Thomas Gallaudet, a Congregationalist minister, and Laurent Clerc, a French Roman Catholic, formed a partnership to establish an institution of deaf education. This partnership was formalized in the following contract, written before Clerc traversed the Atlantic with Gallaudet. One important aspect of their contract pertained to their religious differences.
  • Education Of The Deaf (1912)I was about six years old before any of the specialists whom my parents consulted was brave enough to tell them that I should never see or hear. It was Doctor Chisholm of Baltimore who told them my true condition. "But," said he, "she can be educated," and he advised my father to take me to Washington and consult Doctor Alexander Graham Bell as to the best method of having me taught. Doctor Chisholm did exactly the right thing. My father followed his advice at once, and within a month I had a teacher, and my education was begun. From that intelligent doctor's office I passed from darkness to light, from isolation to friendship, companionship, knowledge. The parent who brings his child to your office, to your hospitals, should find in you, not a teacher, perhaps, but one who understands how far it is possible to right the disaster of deafness....
  • Eighth Report Of The Directors Of The American Asylum For The Education And Instruction Of The Deaf And Dumb (1824)Trusting, however, in that Providence which has heretofore so kindly watched over this Institution, to enable them to overcome the embarrassments which attend some of its operations; and anxious to satisfy the public and the friends of the deaf and dumb, that their great desire is to do good to the interesting objects of their care; -- the Directors have lately made an attempt, at a considerable expense, to introduce mechanical employments among the pupils, upon a regular and systematic plan.Two neat and commodious brick workshops have been erected near the Asylum. An ingenious and skilful mechanic, himself a cabinet-maker, has been employed to oversee this department of the Institution. He resides with the pupils; the better to become familiar with their language of signs and to be able to discharge the duties of his station. -- ...Six are now engaged in learning the trade of a cabinet-maker or joiner; and another who had acquired considerable skill in this branch before he came to the Asylum, aids in instructing them. One who understands the cooper's business, is at work. -- In one of the shops, a forge is erected, at which a very ingenious blacksmith and cutler is employed, while three of the pupils, under his instruction, are learning the same trade. -- Six shoemakers are at work; two of whom had previously made considerable proficiency, and another, a first rate workman, gives instructions to the rest. Several of the female pupils are employed in binding the shoes. It is hoped, that those who wished to be tailors will soon be placed at work; much effort has been made to find a suitable person to instruct them, but, as yet, without success.... Some of the articles, already made by the pupils, evince much skill, and command a ready sale; the patronage and custom of the friends of the Institution, in this department, are respectfully solicited.
  • Gallaudet, Rev. Thomas Gallaudet met a young deaf girl named Alice Cogswell, the daughter of his neighbor, an eminent surgeon named Mason Fitch Cogswell. Gallaudet attempted to teach Alice to read, but his limited success was frustrating. Alice's father was actively trying to establish a school in Connecticut for deaf children. The best-known educators of deaf people at the time were the Braidwood family, who had schools in London and Edinburgh, where they charged high fees for their instruction. A small number of well-to-do American children had gone to England to study with the Braidwoods, and Cogswell persuaded Gallaudet to go to Britain and investigate their educational methods
  • Helen Keller. A Second Laura Bridgman (1888)Michael Anagnos, the superintendent of the Perkins Institution and Samuel Gridley Howe’s son-in-law, played a major role in turning Hellen Keller and Anne Sullivan into celebrities. In this annual report from the Perkins Institution, Anagnos reflects on Bridgman’s education and compares her work with Keller’s startlingly quick progress under Sullivan’s tutelage.
  • On The Duties And Advantages Of Affording Instruction To The Deaf And Dumb (1824)The following is Gallaudet’s standard sermon lauding sign language and the American Asylum. It was his way of garnering both financial and political support for the institution, and versions of the sermon were repeated in Gallaudet’s frequent trips to demonstrate and popularize his work. Gallaudet saw deaf education in general and sign language in particular as the means by which an evangelical vision could be universalized. At the heart of his argument was the notion that the deaf are “the heathen among us,” a people bereft of access to God but whose spiritual isolation could be broken through education. Gallaudet explicitly equates the goals of foreign missions with those of deaf education. Both ultimately sought to bring about the Second Coming of Christ.