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)During the first half of the nineteenth century, deaf educators saw their primary goal as ensuring that deaf students learned the Christian gospel. Like educators of blind children and those labeled as idiotic, teachers of deaf children had several other goals, including teaching basic academic skills and providing vocational training. This report also discusses some of the challenges faced by educators of deaf children and their counterparts at schools for blind and idiotic children: strict limits on how long students could stay at the school and unrealistic expectations from family members.
  • 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.