Charles Michel de l’Epée

June 7, 2018
Category: Submitted Posts

By: Jaclyn Burroughs (06/22/17)

Charles Michel de l’Epée was born in 1712, he founded the first school for the deaf. He is also known for being the first educator for the deaf. Michel first met twin deaf sisters through a man named Father Vanin, Vanin had been tutoring the girls with little success. When Vanin died l’Epee volunteered to take his place and began teaching the girls using hand signals and he had great success. He started insisting that deaf people must learn visually L’epee. did not hope to make himself rich by being paid a great amount to teach only wealthy children as other instructors had done. Instead l’Epee personally funded a public school for the deaf with his modest inheritance. l’Epee would dictate a sentence to his students using hand signals which they would write down in French, he had great success with his school he started in his home. Though he was teaching deaf children in Paris, talk about his success soon spread throughout all of France. l’Epee is known as one of the first to assert that deaf people were not senseless and were fully functional members of society. l’Epee spent most of his money funded his school, he had impoverished himself. Students reported that he went without heat in his home so that they could have fire in their rooms. L’Epee’s work also became know in other countries, Joseph II, Emperor of Austria, and Catherine II, Empress of Russia, sent him prospective teachers to train. l’Epee learned many other languages including Italian, Spanish, English, and German so that he could break the barriers and share his experience with others. About two years after his death the French Government officially funded and took over the institution just before the French Revolution. Charles Michel de l’Epée was succeeded by Abbe Sicard, Roch-Ambroise Cucurron, who was visited by Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet and Cucurron gave up a great teaching assistant Laurent Clerc to go back to America. Gallaudet and Clerc began the first deaf school in America in 1817. Charles Michel de l’Epée is my favorite person in deaf history, because not only did he take the time to get to really know deaf people he also passionately pursued education for them though many opposed him he still fought for education for deaf people. Though there were other people who educated deaf people before him, such as Two Spanish Benedictine Monks in the 1500’s, but they were unsuccessful in preserving against opposition. I believe de l’epee’s passion for teaching the deaf is what made him so well known and his passion made other countries want to get involved also. Charles Michel de l’Epée spared no expense for the deaf children to have a good life just as any other human being, he is also the connection to deaf schools in the United States. He was the beginning of a long hard fight, probably an inspiration to deaf people when people opposed sign language and tried to force Oralism. L’Epee died known as a virtual pauper in 1789, there was a bronze monument placed over his grave to honor him, he was also recognized as a benefactor of Humanity.