History of Sign Language – Deaf History

July 4, 2008
Category: Deaf History

The events that occurred in the history of sign language are actually pretty shocking.

How deaf people experience life today is directly related to how they were treated in the past. It wasn’t long ago when the deaf were harshly oppressed and denied even their fundamental rights.

The are many famous deaf people who have made a name for the deaf throughout the history of sign language and proved that deaf people can, in fact, make history.

Aristotle was the first to have a claim recorded about the deaf. His theory was that people can only learn through hearing spoken language. Deaf people were therefore seen as being unable to learn or be educated at all.

Therefore, they were denied even their fundamental rights. In some places, they weren’t permitted to buy property or marry. Some were even forced to have guardians. The law had them labeled as “non-persons”.

Aristotle’s claim was disputed in Europe during the Renaissance. Scholars were attempting to educate deaf persons for the first time and prove the 2,000 year old beliefs wrong. This mark in the history of sign language is what started the creation of a signed language.

Starting to Educate the Deaf

Juan Pablo de Bonet

Juan Pablo de Bonet

Geronimo Cardano, an Italian mathematician and physician, was probably the first scholar to identify that learning does not require hearing. He discovered, in the 1500s, that the deaf were able to be educated by using written words. He used his methods to educate his deaf son.

Pedro Ponce de Leon, a Spanish monk, was very successful with his teaching methods while teaching deaf children in Spain. This was around the same time that Cardano was educating his deaf son.

Juan Pablo de Bonet, a Spanish priest, studied Leon’s successful methods and was inspired to teach deaf people using his own methods. Bonet used the methods of writing, reading, and speechreading as well as his manual alphabet to educate the deaf. His manual alphabet system was the first recognized in Deaf history. The handshapes in this alphabet corresponded to different sounds of speech.

Organized deaf education was non-existent until around 1750. This was when the first social and religious association for deaf people was founded by Abbe de L’Epee, a French Catholic priest, in Paris. Abbe Charles Michel de L’Epee is one of the most important people in the history of sign language.

Laura Bridgman

Laura Bridgman

A common story retold throughout the history of sign language claims that L’Epee encountered two deaf sisters by chance when visiting a poverty stricken area of Paris. Their mother wanted him to educate her daughters in religion. After discovering their deafness, he wanted to educate the sisters. Soon after, he completely dedicated his life to educating the deaf.

Abbe Charles Michel de L’Epee established the first public free deaf school in 1771. In English, the school is known as the National Institute for Deaf-Mutes. Deaf children came from all across France to attend the school. The deaf children had signed at home then brought these signs with them to the school. L’Epee learned all of these different signs and utilized the signs he learned to teach his students French.

These signs soon became a standard signed language L’Epee taught to the students. More schools were founded and the students brought this language back to their neighborhoods. The standard language L’Epee used in the history of sign language is known as Old French Sign Language. This language spread across Europe as more students were educated.

Today, Abbe de L’Epee is known in Deaf history as the “Father of the Deaf” because of the twenty-one schools he established and all he has done for the deaf.

Many people say that Abbe de L’Epee invented sign language–which is not true. If you want to know who invented sign language, read my “Who Invented Sign Language” article.

Although Abbe de L’Epee claimed sign language is the native language for the deaf, Samuel Heinicke believed in Oralism. Oralism was brought about as people used speechreading and speech to teach deaf students instead of manual language.

Helen Keller

Helen Keller

Even though this positive advancement in Deaf history took place, oralism was the bump in the road.

In relation to the deaf-blind, the first deaf-blind person to be educated was Laura Bridgman. She was born 50 years before Helen Keller, but is usually not credited with being the first deaf-blind person to learn language.

Helen Keller is the most well-known deaf-blind person (she has taken the credit before Laura Bridgman). While she wasn’t the first deaf-blind person to be educated, Helen was the first one to graduate from college, and she did it with honors.

Another common topic in the Deaf Community is deaf people and sports. My favorite deaf athlete is William “Dummy” Hoy. Dummy Hoy was the first deaf major league baseball player. He hit the first grand-slam home run in the American league, and created the hand signals that are still used in baseball today. I think it is so amazing that one deaf athlete can have so much impact and break so many records in baseball, yet many people don’t know about him. Truly amazing.

There are many famous deaf people in the history of America as well. Deaf Smith, for example, is famous for the important role he played in the Texas Revolution. Deaf Smith County, Texas is named after him.

American Sign Language

The history of American Sign Language has earned its own page. Please don’t forget to read about this important part of the history of sign language in the United States.

Speech versus Sign

Sign language is now seen as the native communication and education method for deaf people. However, it wasn’t always this way.

Even though sign language became commonly used, supporters of the oralism method believed the deaf must learn spoken language to fully function in hearing society.

Two of the largest deaf schools in America began educating the deaf in 1867 using only oral methods and encouraged all deaf schools to do the same. These methods did not use any sign language and began to spread to schools for the deaf across the U.S.

Probably the most devoted supporter of the oralism method was
Alexander Graham Bell

(yes, the man who invented the telephone). Bell started an institution in Boston in 1872 to train teachers of deaf people to use oral education. He was one person in the history of sign language who really tried to damage the lives of deaf people.

In 1890, he founded an organization that is now known as the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf.

Alexander Graham Bell

Alexander Graham Bell

The dispute of sign language versus spoken language continued for the next century. The International Congress on the Education of the Deaf met in Milan, Italy in 1880 to discuss the issue. This meeting is now known as the Milan Conference.

The supporters of the oralism method won the vote. Congress declared “that the oral method should be preferred to that of signs in the education and instruction of deaf-mutes”.

The outcome of the conference were devastating. Over the next ten years, sign language use in educating the deaf drastically declined. This milestone in the history of sign language almost brought the Deaf back to ground zero after all of their progress. Almost all deaf education programs used the oralism method by 1920.

Even though oralism won the battle, they did not win the war. American Sign Language still was primarily used out of the classroom environment. The National Association of the Deaf was founded in the United States and fought for the use of sign language. They gained a lot of support and maintained the use of sign language as they argued that oralism isn’t the right educational choice for all deaf people.

In 1960, something big happened. William Stokoe, a scholar and hearing professor at Gallaudet University, published a dissertation that proved ASL is a genuine language with a unique syntax and grammar.

Heather Whitestone

Heather Whitestone
heatherwhitestone.com

ASL was henceforth recognized as a national language.

In 1964, the Babbidge Report was issued by Congress on the oral education of the deaf. It stated that oralism is a “dismal failure” which finally discharged the decision made at the Milan Conference.

In 1970, a teaching method was born that did not fully support either sign language or oralism. Instead, the movement attempted to bring together several educational methods to form Total Communication. This method became a new philosophy for deaf education.

Allowing the deaf access to information by any means, Total Communication can include fingerspelling, sign language, speech, pantomime, lipreading, pictures, computers, writing, gestures, reading, facial expressions, and hearing aids.

Another huge event in the history of sign language was the Deaf President Now (DPN) movement. The DPN movement unified deaf people of every age and background in a collective fight to be heard. Their triumph was a testament to the fact that they don’t have to accept society’s limitation on their culture.

In 1995, a woman named Heather Whitestone became the first deaf woman to be named Miss America in the Miss America pageant. She showed the world that a deaf person can do anything a hearing person can do, and that all things are possible with God’s help.

The Best History of Sign Language Books


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Deaf Culture

Deaf history greatly affects how deaf people live their lives today. And not only do deaf people have a history, they have a culture… Deaf Culture.

Deaf culture is culture like any other. Deaf people share a language, rules for behavior, values, and traditions. The way the Deaf culture is living today is a direct result of the Deaf history that preceded it.

Who is Your Favorite Person from the history of sign language?
Share Your Thoughts!

What Other Visitors Have Said

Click below to see the favorite historical figures from other visitors to this page…

Ludwig Van Beethoven

By: Kayla Nickles (07/03/17) There are many wonderful influential deaf people in history. My favorite would have to be Ludwig Van Beethoven. He wasn’t born deaf, but he became deaf later on in his life. We all know Beethoven as a famous musician, but not very many people associate him with the deaf community. How […]...

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Marlee Matlin

By: Kristy Chase (06/30/17) As a new learner of ASL and Deaf culture and history, I’ve been reading not only the information in my assignments as well as doing deeper research and reading on my own. I find it quite intriguing to find more information ‘out there’ pertaining to the various topics. I find the […]...

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Charles Michel de l’Epée

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 […]...

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Ludwig Van Beethoven

By: Emily Keller (06/22/17) My favorite deaf person in history would happen to be Ludwig Van Beethoven. I absolutely love music, and art, and to know that the famous Beethoven was deaf, yet still wrote the most intricate and melodious music will never cease to amaze me. We know that we hasn’t always deaf, but […]...

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My Four Favorites

By: Rozelyn Wisen (06/19/17) I have been thinking about this assignment for awhile now and contemplating who I felt was the most interesting and made the most impact on deaf culture. At first I was interested in writing about Abbe Charles-Michel de l’Epee and his contribution to deaf education and the developement of Sign Language, […]...

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Helen Keller

By: Leah R. (06/10/17) My favorite person who had an impact on deaf history and ASL is Helen Keller. Not only was she deaf, but she was blind as well. She was born on June 27, 1880 in Alabama. After being struck with a severe disease in 1882, she was left blind and deaf. Martha […]...

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William C. Stokoe

By: Jennifer Spain Greene (06/05/17) William C. Stokoe is my favorite Historical Deaf Figure, because he saw deaf people as special and unique, and recognized the signs of a language being formed when other educators wrote off sign language as a “poor substitute for speech” in 1955. In the 1960s Stokoe saw that sign language […]...

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All Men Are Created Equal

By: Barbara Childress (05/31/17) Even though Abbe Charles Michel de L’Epee did not invent “sign language”, he is my favorite historical figure in Deaf History. His desire to include deaf children in the learning and practice of religion speaks highly of his heart for all of mankind. In many historical settings, priests, educators and missionaries […]...

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Father of the Deaf

By: Debbie Cirre (05/25/17) At a time in history when deaf people had no rights and were even considered unteachable, one man emerged who opened the doors and changed the course of deaf education. Abbe Charles Michel de l’Epee, known as the “Father of the Deaf”, is my favorite person from deaf history for this […]...

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William Stokoe

By: Sydnie (05/22/17) My favorite person from Deaf History is William Stokoe. I liked that he made an effort in proving the significance and importance of Sign Language. Forcing deaf people to learn to communicate through speech and lip reading I feel is doing them a disservice. I realize it was possible for them to […]...

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Heather Whitestone

By: Timmons McElveen (05/17/17) Not only was Heather Whitestone the first (and only to this date) deaf Miss America, but she was the first Miss America that was crowned despite having a disability. While competing in the Miss America competition, she gained respect from people both inside and outside of the hearing community. Whitestone was […]...

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Helen Keller

By: Cameron Peloquin (05/02/17) Helen Keller was a famous woman who lived from the late 19th century to the 20th century. She is known for her experiences in life when being blind and deaf. She was born on June 27th, 1880, in a town called Tuscumbia, Alabama. Her story started when she suffered an unidentified […]...

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The Apostle of the Deaf in America

By: Kylie Sundsmo (04/18/17) Laurent Clerc is one of the most famous people in Deaf history. He is known for helping start the first permanent school for the Deaf in the United States, called the American School for the Deaf. He is one of my favorite people from deaf history because he devoted much of […]...

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Beethoven

By: Kimberly Brunner (04/12/17) “Oh, I love this song.” My Grandmother smiles and turns the volume on the cassette player up. Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony rolls around the room like water when it’s played aloud, every drop and rise becoming inadvertently stuck in your heart and becoming impossible to get out. It’s incredibly recognizable, and considered […]...

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Helen Adams Keller

By: Ruby Solomon (04/09/17) With the help of “teacher” (Anne Sullivan), Helen Keller became the first deaf-blind person to earn a bachelor of arts degree. Helen was a political activist, lecturer, and American author. Helen’s incredible story is still known today through her books Story of My Life (1903), The World I Live In (1908), […]...

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William Stokoe

By: Audrey Sebastian Gonzalez (04/08/17) From the list of various historical figures who played an important role in deaf history, William C. Stokoe, Jr. (1919-2000), an English professor and American linguistic, is my favorite. Foremost, Stokoe, while teaching at Gallaudet University, researched American Sign Language extensively by observing students sign. From this study, an important […]...

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Teresa de Cartagena

By: Jack (04/07/17) Teresa de Cartagena was a nun in 15th Century Spain. She is remarkable for being Spain’s first feminist writer as well as for being deaf and writing positively about it. Teresa went deaf in her late twenties/early thirties. She was devastated by this, thinking that God was punishing her despite her devotion […]...

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Regina Olson Hughes

By: Cynthia Brainerd (02/27/17) Regina Olson Hughes (1895-1993) became fully deaf at the age of 14, due to the effects of scarlet fever. She could still speak fluently, but had to find new ways of communicating with the world around her. She attended the famous Gallaudet College where she later lived for 30 years, married […]...

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Laura Dewey Lynn Bridgman

By: Coy McQueen (02/26/17) Laura Bridgman was born in 1829 in Hanover, New Hampshire and is famous for being the first deaf-blind child to get a formal education in America. In addition, Charles Dickens wrote about her achievement in American Notes and she was connected to Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller’s teacher. Bridgman contracted scarlet fever […]...

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Thomas H. Gallaudet

By: Heather Meyer (02/20/17) Thomas Gallaudet is my favorite in Deaf history for multiply reasons. I see many people stating how Gallaudet brought sign language to America but sign language was already here in many home signs as well as other regional signed systems (i.e. Martha’s Vinyard). What Gallaudet did was bring the Deaf community […]...

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Influences in Deaf History

By: Steph Grizzard (02/24/17) I don’t know if I can pick a favorite person to influence deaf history. It is such a rich history and the culture is what it is today because of all of them together. Abbe de L’Epee founded the first public deaf school and used all of the signs that the […]...

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Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet

By: Alex Maj (01/27/17) In my opinion the most influential historical figure to American Sign Language is Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet. He was the first person in America that believed deaf people needed to be heard and decided to start teach. His first student was a 9 year old girls, the daughter of his neighbor. Mr. […]...

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Laurent Clerc

By: Erin Young (02/14/17) My favourite person in Deaf history is Laurent Clerc because he was Deaf and he taught Thomas Gallaudet FSL. I think it is very cool of him to be willing to teach a hearing person sign language, and to accompany him to another country to start a school for the Deaf. […]...

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Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet

By: Ciera Bailey (01/16/17) My favorite person is Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet. He was born on December 10th, 1787 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At age seventeen, he graduated at Yale University in 1805, earning a bachelor’s degree and graduated with the highest honors. Few years later, in 1808 Gallaudet earned his master’s degree at Yale University. Gallaudet […]...

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Alexander Graham Bell

By: Audrey Jacobs (01/11/17) Alexander Graham Bell was an educator, a scientist and an inventor during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Born in Edinburgh Scotland, on March third, 1847, he did all his studies in Europe going to a private high school, Edinburgh Royal High School. His first portion of college was at Edinburgh […]...

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There are several

By: Sue I’ve been losing my hearing for many many years now and it’s becoming more and more profound as I get older and the tinnitus gets louder and louder. I’ve know since a very young age that my hearing would go and now that day is fast approaching. Reading the Deaf History is fascinating […]...

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Communication From Helen Keller to Andrew Foster

By: Linda My early childhood awareness of any sign language began with the first impressions of the beautiful Hawaiian story telling with graceful dance and use of their hands. I also wondered why there was not a universal set of hand signs like Indian tribes used to cross language barriers. Then I learned about Helen […]...

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Deaf People Can Do Anything Except Hear

By: Brent This now famous quote is from my favorite person in Deaf history – I. King Jordan. He became the first Deaf president of Gallaudet University as a result of the Deaf President Now movement in 1988. Before that time, the premier university for the Deaf was led by hearing presidents. While a hearing […]...

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Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet

By Claudia Naidoo – Durban, South Africa (05/30/2016) Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet is my favourite historical figure in American Deaf History. Whilst doing additional research, I found that he had made a sacrifice of his own dreams in order to invest time into giving Alice Cogswell an education (around year 1814).I think that it is remarkable […]...

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Alexander Graham Bell

By: Kathleen Sweeney (12/07/2016) My favorite contributor to the deaf community is Alexander Graham Bell. Bell’s work was highly influenced by his wife and mother being deaf. He is most known for his invention of the telephone.  Bell’s central interest lied in deaf education and teaching. His father was a researcher of speech and he […]...

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William “Dummy” Hoy

By: Christina Buccafurni (04/27/16) William “Dummy” Hoy (May 23, 1862 – December 15, 1961) is known for being the most accomplished deaf baseball player to play in Major League Baseball.  He was born in Houckstown, Ohio and lost his hearing during childhood due to an illness.  The word “dumb” meant someone who couldn’t speak (yet Hoy […]...

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Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet

By: Annette Banks (07/24/16) When I read the history of Thomas Gallaudet, I never knew he was a Reverend.  I am a Christian and I can see how the hand of God was guiding this man to become a renowned American pioneer, so every deaf person could have a voice to communicate. I believe that […]...

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Thomas Gallaudet

By: Bethany Crouch (11/08/16) Thomas was a young teenager at age 14, when he graduated from Yale University. He also began studying sign language and European educational systems and how they taught students. Gallaudet was challenged and inspired by the educational system that he traveled to Europe to expand his further knowledge and reach out […]...

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Pedro Ponce de Leon

By: Marcus McNeal (11/29/16) “Everybody has to start somewhere. You have your whole future ahead of you. Perfection doesn’t happen right away.” (Haruki Murakami, 2006). The quote speaks a lot to the person who I’ve chosen to write about, who is known as Pedro Ponce de Leon. A 16th century Spanish Monk, Ponce de Leon […]...

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Kevin Lucas Smire

By: David Cooper (10/13/16) The deaf person wrote about was Kevin Lucas Smire who was also known as “Deaf Kev.” He was born on October 28, 1996 and is 19 years old. I picked him because I love music so I searched for hours looking for a deaf musician and I found this guy. He […]...

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Alexander Graham Bell

By: Jamie Saults (05/18/2016) I am writing about Alexander Graham Bell because I thought it interesting that he fought so hard for the deaf community and even married a deaf person, yet also thought that deaf people weakened society. His beliefs led to a debate in the form of communication used by the deaf and […]...

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Andrew Foster

By: Nava Levine (08/10/2016) Andrew Foster was born in 1925 in Ensley, Alabama. At the young age of 11, Foster contracted spinal meningitis and became deaf as a result. He was rejected from Gallaudet University multiple times merely because he was African American. However, Foster would not be dissuaded; he continued to apply until at […]...

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Matt and Kay Daigle

By: Karri Kimery (08/18/2016) As I was reading about people in the deaf community, I came across Matt and Kay Daigle.  These two met in 1993, at Deaf/Hearing touring theater company where they were both cast members.  These two are comedy partners.  While they were at a cartooning convention in Missouri, Kay approached Matt concerning […]...

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William Stokoe

By: Brittany Pare (10/30/16) My favorite person from Deaf history is William Stokoe because he was able to prove that Sign Language was a real language, not just a translation of English. This was an incredibly important milestone for the Deaf community because it allowed for American Sign Language to be recognized as a national […]...

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Laura Redden Searing

By: Ellie Swanson (11/04/2016) Laura Redden Searing was a female deaf poet and journalist in the late 19th century into the early 20th century. She was born in 1839 and died in 1923 and became deaf at the age of 11. She attended the Missouri School for the Deaf because it was no longer possible […]...

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Alexander Graham Bell

By: Hanna England (09/15/16) My favorite person from Deaf History is Alexander Graham Bell. Graham was born on March 3, 1847, and later died on August 2, of 1922.  Although Bell is mainly known for his invention of the telephone, he also is known as the father of oralism in Deaf history. Alexander grew up […]...

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Laura Bridgman and Helen Keller

By: Marie Cunningham (03/28/16) For my favorite person from Deaf History, I choose both Laura Bridgman and Helen Keller. I admire both woman because at a time when learning to communicate was difficult for the Deaf, they learned to communicate and became educated. Back when these women accomplished these things it was not easy for […]...

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Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet

By: Beth Swanberg (06/13/2016) Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet is my favorite deaf person for several reasons. First, Gallaudet, who was born December 10, 1787 in Pennsylvania and died September 10, 1851, was a Yale educated man who graduated with high honors. And, he also studied theology in order to minister to people. He used his education to […]...

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Helen Keller

By: Mia Hackett (10/11/2016) I personally think that Helen Keller was pretty amazing. On top of being deaf she was blind, yet she was still able to impact the many generations following her, that is incredible! I’m taking an Acting Intensive class; a part of the class is learning how to use your five senses […]...

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Marlee Matlin

By: Kirsten Aucoin (10/06/16) Marlee Matlin is a Deaf woman known for becoming the first – and so far only – Deaf actor to win an Oscar. Matlin’s film debut was what earned her the award. She starred as a main character in the movie ‘Children of a Lesser God’ in 1986, when she was […]...

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Laura Dewey

By: Hannah (10/18/16) On December 21, 1829, in Hanover, New Hampshire, a beautiful baby Laura Dewey was born, and was the third child of Daniel and Harmony Bridgman, two New England farmers. At the age of 24 months Laura became very ill with scarlet fever, and in spite of losing all of her senses, expect […]...

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Edward Miner Gallaudet

By: Kanesha Gittens (08/27/16) I chose to do my paper on Edward Miner Gallaudet. The reason I chose Gallaudet was because we have the same birthday. That had me interested and finding out more about him.  He was an extraordinary man who had a dream of doing more in life. Which for some years he […]...

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Helen Keller

By Samantha Williams (11/17/16) I chose Helen Keller as my favorite person in Deaf history. I know she wasn’t in the book, but she’s always been my favorite! Helen Keller was born June 27, 1880, in Tuscumbia, AL. At only 19 months old she fell ill with an illness that is still unknown. Doctors suggested […]...

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Helen Keller

By: Sheridan Mercer (09/09/16) My favorite person from deaf history is Helen Keller. She was an author, political activist and lecturer. She never let her disability get in her way of accomplishing her dreams and doing what she wanted in life. She was born June 27nd, 1880 in Alabama and died June 1st, 1967 in […]...

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Gertrude Ederle

By: Natalie Picone (08/27/16) In 1926 at the age of 19, Gertrude Ederle was the first woman to swim across the English Channel.  Twenty-one miles from Dover, England to Cape Griz-Nez. Gertrude was born to German immigrants in New York City on October 23, 1905.  She was one of five children.  Ederle did not learn […]...

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Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet

By: Nicole McGovern (10/31/16) So many people in Deaf history are significant and have made a great impact on Deaf culture in today’s society. My favorite person from Deaf history would have to be Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet. I chose Gallaudet as my favorite because he initiated American Sign Language in 1814. He was inspired by […]...

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George Veditz

By: Alyssa Mattingly (10/20/2016) “ASL is not just a different language, it is a different medium for talking, and this fact may make you hesitant, and perhaps even suspicious about what you can and cannot say in ASL.  You are in good company because Deaf people wonder how it is possible to talk in speech […]...

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Edward Miner Gallaudet

By: Shelley Udzinski (07/06/16) While Thomas Gallaudet  is perhaps the most prominent name in US deaf history, equally as impressive are the accomplishments of his son, Edward Miner Gallaudet.  What is perhaps the most intriguing fact is that he began his journey in deaf history at the young age of 16, two years after the […]...

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Julia Brace

By: Anonymous (10/06/16) The famous deaf person I choose was Julia Brace. She lived a long time ago in the 1800’s. I choose her because her personality stood out to me. She was deafblind, which makes me admire her work so much more! At the age of 5, because of a sickness, she became deaf […]...

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Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet

By: Emily Wucher (05/04/2016) Many people were a great influence to what deaf culture has become. It was hard to choose a favorite, but I think the most influential was Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet. Thomas met a young girl, Alice Cogswell, while going place to place teaching kids. Alice, who was deaf and mute, inspired Thomas […]...

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Like A Mighty Oak

By: Stanley Howell It is difficult to select just one person from such a long list of noted personalities who have played various roles in the history of the deaf culture in the U. S. and around the world. What criteria does one use in selecting from Bridgman the Gallaudets, Bell, Stokoe, then Keller, Hoy, […]...

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Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet

By: Lynette Wucher (05/04/2016) Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet had a major part in the history of American Sign Language. Due to his neighbor’s daughter being deaf, he sought out a way for her to have an education.  He took his time to work with Alice but was unsuccessful in finding a solution to communicate and teach.  […]...

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Andrew Foster

By: Eric Hines Jr. (12/15/2016) After completing my Bachelor’s degree in Educational Psychology, I plan working as a diverse learner for students in the elementary level. Some students with hearing loss would be enrolled in my class and it is important for me to communicate with them. I would not want my students to feel […]...

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Favorite Deaf Person

by Triniti (Washington) Helen Keller is my personal favorite deaf person. I was completely astounded when I heard her story. As a second or third grader, I simply couldn’t imagine not being able to see or hear. She is to this day my idol, and one of the many reasons that I have continued to […]...

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Laura Bridgmn and Helen Keller

by Annaleise I had to pick both Laura Bridgmn and Helen Keller because both are amazing women who did amazing things. Before Deaf Culture was actually recognized as something every Deaf person had difficulties being educated and accepted into society. However these lady’s found a way to be educated and to learn to communicate with […]...

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To Choose

by Anonymous When it comes to Deaf Culture and its people, how do you pick a favorite. The accomplishments that these people have made have not only changed the community but helped it grow. I could have easily picked America’s inspiration Alice Cogswell. At the age of 9 she met Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet. Alice showed […]...

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Helen Keller

by Addy (Pennsyvania ) My favorite is Helen Keller. She seems so real, not like a far away historical person. I’ve read books about, and she sounds normal. I would go crazy if I couldn’t hear nor see and couldn’t understand people that long. I have a hole in my ear drum, and recently I […]...

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Louise Fletcher

by Lisa I’m going to talk about someone here who first opened my eyes to sign language, and that is the actress Louise Fletcher. Louise Fletcher most famously played Nurse Ratched in the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I have always been a huge movie fan, and have, since I can remember, stayed […]...

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Helen Keller

by Lynn (Vernon, B.C. Canada) Actually I have two favourites!! Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan! When I think of one, I automatically think of the other. Helen’s successful history was also Anne’s success! Having been both deaf and blind, I find the technique used to teach Helen to sign, write and speak, very interesting. A […]...

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William Stokoe

by Brad (MA) My favorite person in Deaf History is William Stokoe. At first, I was going to go with Geronimo Cardano because being the first to do something takes conviction and courage. However, turning preconceived notions on their head, I think, is even harder. When learning to read, teachers are always urging you to […]...

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Father of the deaf

by Stacey Neifert (Winchester,KY) My favorite historical figure is of course Abbe de L’Epee I will admit I don’t know much about the deaf community, culture or history aside from what I have learned during this online class. every time I find myself doing a reading assignment I’m almost in tears learning in detail about […]...

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Heather Whitestone McCallum

by Elle Adema (Winthrop, Minnesota, USA) Heather Whitestone McCallum is my favorite person from Deaf History because she used her fame and popularity to bring the Deaf Community into the spotlight with her. Just because she won Miss America that didn’t change the fact that she still wanted to be able to help other Deaf […]...

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I can’t choose just one!

by Vickie (La Verkin, UT, USA) Is it possible to have more than one favorite in deaf history? I am in awe of the people throughout history (and even today) who gave their all to make a difference in someone else’s life. There are those who became interested in helping their own children and ended […]...

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Juan Pablo de Bonet

by Keana (Colorado ) Juan Pablo de Bonet is my favorite person to go down in the Deaf community history because all he did. He established many schools, made some signs for his deaf child and the schools he established as well as teaching them, he was a hearing man that really connected with the […]...

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Julia Brace: The Beginning of a domino effect.

by Nikki Delay (British Columbia) I enjoyed learning about Julia Brace. Of course I had heard about Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan as I was growing up, but when the article introduced me to Laura Bridgeman I was intrigued. While reading about Laura I was even more intrigued by her teacher Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe […]...

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A man who saw beyond

by Betsy (Fort Collins, CO USA) From what I have learned, I would say Abbe de L ‘Epee would have to be my favorite. because he saw beyond the title, notions, and ideas that had been set. He saw them as people. Devoting his life to reach out to this wonderful world of people that […]...

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Abbe Charles Michel de L’Epee

by Danica (Canada) Abbe Charles Michel de L’Epee devoted his life to helping others who he could barely even communicate with at first. He decided it was his job and duty to help the people that society didn’t think it worth helping. Not only did he open a school to help and teach these children, […]...

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Abbe de L’Epee

by Audrey Chaffin (Tennessee) Of all of the brilliant people that have helped nourish the use of sign language in history, Abbe de L’Epee definitely stood out the most to me. I fully agree with his deserving the title “Father of the Deaf” because, in my opinion, he was the first to make a huge […]...

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I Met William Dummy Hoy

by Peggy (Ohio) William Dummy Hoy. My parents are deaf and when I was little I met him at a Ohio School for the Deaf. Now that I teach ASL and I teach a unit on famous deaf people I can tell my students that I met him. Plus was at the DPN rally with […]...

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Linda Bove

by Melissa (Columbia, MS) The person from Deaf History that I admire the most is Linda Bove. She frequently came into my living room via “Sesame Street”. She was kind and friendly and always ready to teach children new signs. To me, she seems like an old friend. On one episode of “Sesame Street”, Big […]...

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Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet

by Anonymous Thomas H. Gallaudet is a remarkable figure in deaf history. He went above and beyond to help Alice Cogswell by traveling to Europe to learn from deaf educators there. He saw the need for deaf people to have access to an education. He also recognized the benefit of sign language and realized that […]...

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The Gallaudet Family

by Deanna Edmiston (Round Rock, TX, USA) I was really impressed to learn about the Gallaudet family. Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet’s contribution to deaf history comes in his founding of the American School for the Deaf in 1816, in Hartford, Connecticut. His son, Edward Minor Gallaudet, also made a huge contribution in deaf history as the […]...

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Geronimo Cardano

by Anonymous Geronimo Cardano is my favorite person in this article, because although he did not think of using sign, he still believed that deaf people could learn, and that there were methods of learning without being able to hear. I think he was the first step in recognizing that being deaf was not necessarily […]...

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“Father of the Deaf” — Abbe Charles Michael de L’Epee

by Nadine Miller (Pennsylvania) Abbe Charles Michael de L’Epee is my favorite person from Deaf History. He led the way in education for the deaf community. He was able to see a need for the deaf to become educated and believed that it was possible. By founding the first public free deaf school, he was […]...

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Helen Keller + Annie Sullivan

by H.M. Wilson (USA) Although Helen Keller was not the first deaf-blind student to be educated, I still feel inspired when I read the story about how she and Annie Sullivan established a relationship based on learning. Their special teacher-student relationship has always been one of my favorite tales, because it shows me that anyone […]...

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Thomas H. Gallaudet

by Jay Hunsberger (Spring City, PA) I am a hearing person who first heard the name Gallaudet on Switched at Birth when Gallaudet University was mentioned all through out the TV Show. the Deaf President Now movement that happened at Gallaudet University is also mentioned. Ever since college I have been a history buff, so […]...

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Too many to choose just one…..

by Debbie (Tahlequah, OK. USA) Juliette Gordon Low There are so many deaf, hard of hearing as well as hearing people that have made such great contributions to the deaf community and how they are interacted with and perceived by the world. Choosing just one favorite is very difficult. There are many ways of looking […]...

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Mabel Gardiner Hubbard Bell

by Alan (Sodus, NY USA) Yes Bell ! The deaf wife of Alexander Graham Bell. She met “Alec” as a 15 year old medically deaf student in his oralism school. And the story begins in MAKE A JOYFUL SOUND, the authorized biography of Mabel and Alec by Helen Elmira Waite. I fear this history has […]...

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Helen Keller

by Andrea (Georgia) Helen Keller is my favorite historical figure. This is because she tried her hardest even though she had tough obstacles. She was able to learn without being able to see or hear. She also had to find a new way to learn that only involved three out if five of her senses. […]...

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William Ellsworth Hoy (Dummy Hoy)

by Anonymous With all the people that have made a huge impact on the world with the deaf culture it is hard to just pick one. But I was able to pick one out. It is William Ellsworth Hoy (Dummy Hoy). The reason I pick him is because before he went deaf he had a […]...

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Dummy is no Dummy

by Patricia Robles (Imperial, CA, USA) My favorite person from Deaf History is William “Dummy” Hoy. William “Dummy” Hoy lived from 1862 to 1961 (almost 100 years!). He was born hearing, but became deaf at age 3 due to meningitis. He was a great athlete and played baseball, making it all the way to the […]...

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I Don’t Think He Was A Dummy!

by Aslin Mize (Springtown Tx USA) My favorite person that I read about was William “Dummy” Hoy. I have read about Helen Keller and on the history of Sign Language but, never about him and I found him very interesting. I think because just to think that all those signs that we use in baseball […]...

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Abbe de L’Epee

by Sharon Daniell (Trinidad and Tobago ) My reason for choosing Abbe de L’Epee as my favorite Deaf historian has to do with the fact that he took the time to educate the Deaf people. The story of how he started is inspiring and makes for good story reading; that is the story of the […]...

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Helen Keller

by Barbara Baker My favorite person is Helen Keller and she was independent and she is the most famous deaf and blind person. She went to college and she was the first one to graduate from college and she graduated with honors. She bet her disability. She has taken the credit before Laura Bridgman. She […]...

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Helen Keller: Limitless

by Kiley Jensen (Ferron, UT, United States) Imagine finally breaking down a wall in your life that allowed you to see that you weren’t nearly as limited as you had once thought. Imagine the new possibilities that lie before you, and imagine showing that to numerous people who would follow, inspiring them to be something […]...

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Dr. Andrew Foster – From Gallaudet to Africa

by Jonathan P Garland (St. Louis, MO, United States) Andrew Foster is my favorite historical figure from Deaf history. Not only was he intelligent, talented and dedicated to bringing deaf education to so many, he was also the first African American to graduate from Gallaudet with a Bachelor of Arts Degree. There have been many […]...

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Beethoven: Black and Deaf

by Amber (Arizona, USA) I don’t feel like I know enough about Deaf History to have an actual favorite yet, but Ludwig van Beethoven has been in my thoughts a lot lately due to recently learning that he was black. It’s amazing to me that history can be manipulated so drastically that we could have […]...

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Off the beaten path…

by Rick Whited (Grand Terrace, California) I’m with others in noting that all of these individuals played a significant role in the history of sign language – some from a positive perspective, others from a negative. What more can be said of L’Epee and the Gallaudet’s? Even Bell thought he was progressing the education and […]...

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Helen Keller

by Olivia (Dublin, GA, U.S.A) When I first became interested in sign language I decided to read Helen Keller’s biography, The Story Of My Life. I had heard of her, but I didn’t really know anything about her, other than her name and the fact that she was deaf and blind. When I finished reading […]...

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Much More Than I Expected!

by Lori Holden (WV) Even though I never realized that she was not the first blind and deaf person to be educated I would have to say my favorite person in Deaf history is Helen Keller. I learned of her life when I was very young and I spent much time trying to imagine what […]...

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Helen Keller

by Tina Herrera (Hagerstown, Maryland Washinghton) For my assignment of who I consider my favorite deaf person I would have to say it is hands down HELEN KELLER. I think not only her deafness at first was her trial of life but her blindness as well for she had both at the same time. She […]...

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Helen Keller

by Anonymous (Fond du Lac, WI) All have a place earned in History. And to choose ONE is very difficult. I choose Helen Keller. Not only for the fact that she was blind and deaf. But, because she accomplished so much. She brought a lot of attention to the plight of the deaf community. Because […]...

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Abbe de L’Epee

by Elise (Big Bear City, CA) I am impressed most by Abbe de L’Epee and his effort to educate the deaf. After meeting two deaf sisters, he decided to dedicate his life to educating the deaf. After establishing the first free deaf school, he was able to learn all sorts of signs the students brought […]...

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Sean Berdy

by Alex (Buffalo) O.K., O.K., I admit, Sean Berdy isn’t exactly a historical figure… By any stretch of the imagination. But in 20 years he will be, and I’m going to count that. Sean Berdy is a deaf man who plays a deaf character on the show Switched at Birth. He was really the first […]...

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Here’s to the teachers

by Avril (South Africa) My strongest admiration goes out to those who teach deaf children and young adults – whether the teachers are themselves hearing or deaf. Of course, from this page, all credit goes to Abbe de L’Epee for the patience and openness which he showed in learning from his students so that he […]...

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Helen Keller

by Haylee (Minnesota ) Helen Keller is so inspirational. With being blind and deaf she managed to go to school and go to college and graduated with honors. That’s amazing to me. Hard work really pays off and it shows. She knew she could do it and she worked hard to get there. That makes […]...

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Alexander Graham Bell

by Erika (Salt Lake City, Utah) My favorite person from Deaf History is Alexander Graham Bell because he gave the deaf population something to fight for. Every story needs a great villain and quite often the villain does not seem so villainous on the surface. Every great story where good triumphs over evil the villain […]...

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My Favorite Deaf Person in History

by Bailey Ryan (Palm Beach, Florida) My favorite person in deaf history by far is William Stokoe. Before I had read this article, Hellen Keller was my favorite, because she was the only deaf person I knew about. But when I heard about William Stokoe, I quickly changed my mind. His proof that American Sign […]...

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Helen Keller

by Mdu (Mississauga) She graduated from college with honors – I think that says more than anything that Helen Keller is the biggest inspiration for deaf people. She proved that anything a non deaf person can do, a deaf person can do. Heather Whitestone also did that by winning the Miss America pageant, however I […]...

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Abbe de L’Epee

by Gideon My favorite sign language hero would have to be Abbe de L’Epee. Abbe de L’Epee is one of the most important people in deaf history. He was the first recorded person to care for the deaf people and their problem of not being able to communicate. Abbe de L’Epee was inspired to devote […]...

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William “Dummy” Hoy

by Karrina (America) I would have to say William “Dummy” Hoy is my favorite because he showed a lot of Deaf power. He became deaf at the age of 3 because of meningitis. He grew up and graduated from Ohio State School for the Deaf as valedictorian. He started baseball as just a fun thing […]...

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Laurent Clerc

by Anonymous My favorite person in deaf history is Laurent Clerc. He was not given an education for the first eleven or twelve years of his life. He stayed at home taking care of the animals, while others his age were going to school getting an education. Many people thought that deaf people could not […]...

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Abbe Charles Michel de L’Epee

by Anonymous I really enjoyed learning about Abbe Charles Michel de L’Epee and all that he did for the deaf people. At that time, deaf people were treated very poorly, as if they could not ever be educated. He was among the few who believed in helping the deaf. I respect what he did, first […]...

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So Many Contributions

by Nicki B (Wisconsin) I can’t really choose one to identify with. There are so many people who made contributions to sign language becoming what it is today. People that were blessed with hearing took it upon themselves to learn ASL and want to communicate with deaf people. I find that amazing. These people in […]...

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William “Dummy” Hoy

by Allison Liu (Colorado) I first heard of William “Dummy” Hoy on a show called Switched at Birth. Daphne, one of the deaf characters, during the first all ASL show ever aired on television, was talking to her friends about “drawing inspiration from all the deaf people who had paved the road before them.” She […]...

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My own views on deaf history

by Nicki (Canada) After reading this article, as well as the other available ones on this site and a few from another ASL book I am reading I have come to the conclusion that I can’t choose one person in deaf history as my favourite. I have to say that they all have their goods […]...

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Enterprise Technology Analyst

by Teresa (Sacramento, CA) To me, Abbe de L’Epee is my favorite person because he showed that deaf people could learn and be productive people just as much as hearing people. I think it is wonderful that he opened the school for deaf and also was willing to learn the sign language the students brought […]...

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Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet

by Lynn (Clearwater, FL, USA) Up until now, the only deaf (famous) people I was really familiar with was Helen Keller. Most of us had heard her story and found her to be inspiring. Through the years I’ve had deaf students in my classroom, hard of hearing friends, and I’m hard of hearing. But I’ve […]...

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Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller

by Donald Jerry Bartley (Barefoot Bay, Florida USA) I was born with full hearing. At the age of three, I came down with meningitis and suffered a profound loss of hearing from battling the illness. My ability to lipread developed fairly quickly and as a result my hearing loss was not discovered until I was […]...

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Favorite Deaf Historical Figure

by Amber Howard (Los Angles, CA) I’d have to say that after reading this article, Abbe Charles Michel de L’Epee is my favorite figure in Deaf history. He literally and figuratively opened the door for so many that society had written off. With all of the options available to us today, it’s hard to imagine […]...

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Gallaudet and Deaf President Now

by Janiece (Tennessee) My favorite people are those deaf individuals that stood up at Gallaudet and demanded a Deaf president. They risked their freedom, their future, and their reputation for what they believed in. I feel it is inspiring to learn about a group of people who pull together to do the hard, but right […]...

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My Thoughts

by Caitlin (El Paso, Tx, USA) The person I admire the most from deaf history is Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet. The reason for this is the great impact he had on the deaf people in America. Because of his interest in Alice Cogswell, Gallaudet traveled to Europe and learned from the most knowledgeable people in the […]...

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William Stokoe

by Bethany (Louisville, KY) My favorite person from Deaf history is William Stokoe, because he proved in his dissertation that ASL is a genuine language with unique syntax and grammar. I am not deaf, but I believe that Deaf people should be allowed to use sign language. Because of that, I would have to say […]...

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My Favorite Person from Deaf History

by Ruth Grant (Mobile, Alabama) Without a doubt, Helen Keller is my absolute favorite person from Deaf History. My third grade teacher read the story of Helen Keller to us and showed us the alphabet in sign language. I was fascinated by the language and have continued learning about the culture and the language. I […]...

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“Father of ASL Linguistics”

by Julie (USA) After reading this article, I decided to look into the life of William Stokoe because the work he did for Gallaudet as well as the development of American Sign Language interested me. I believe that he played an integral part in growing the deaf community and working to make American Sign Language […]...

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A greater sense of life: Helen Keller

by Thomas Forlano (Denver, CO) Several people come to mind when considering who has most impacted me from the Deaf community and history. Evelyn Glennie, for example, has contributed her rich understanding of sound and listening. And I cannot forget Marlee Matlin’s character showing what the ocean waves sound like in Children of a Lesser […]...

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Challenging Society: Alice Cogswell

by Cliona (Canada) The Likeness of 9 year-old Alice Cogswell Despite a short life, Alice Cogswell led a life well-lived. I admire her greatly because she did not allow society to tell her that being deaf in the 1820’s somehow made you less than human. Alice was born in 1805, and contracted “spotted fever” (most […]...

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Helen Keller

by Tina Douglass (Kahlotus, WA) Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan Helen Keller was born in Tuscumbia, Alabama on June 27, 1880. Her father was Arthur H Keller and her teacher was Anne Sullivan. Helen Keller at 19 months old got scarlet fever which left her blind and deaf. As a deaf blind child who was […]...

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Contemporary Deaf Performers: Focusing on Joel Barish

by Sara Huang (Taipei, Taiwan) I have read a lot about the oppression of the Deaf, but I really appreciate people who have embraced Deaf culture and have a passion for studying the social fabric of Deaf people in other countries. Joel Barish has traveled the globe and has been filmed with Deaf people from […]...

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William Stokoe

by KS (USA) One of my favorite people in Deaf history is William Stokoe because when I read about him I felt a sense of relief and triumph that someone in recent history was able to make people, especially those in the academic world, wake up and notice the legitimacy of the Deaf culture and […]...

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Dr. Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet and Alice Cogswell

by Anonymous (TX) I chose Dr. Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet and Alice Cogswell as my favorite people from Deaf history. Why did I chose both instead of just one? Well the answer is simple really. Gallaudet made such a huge impact in Deaf history, but would this ever of really took off without Alice there to […]...

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Dr. Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet

by Noelle (Santa Ana, CA) In learning about the history of American Sign Language, it is hard to pick a favorite historical figure related to deaf history. I have always been interested in ASL and the deaf community, and it wasn’t until recently that I decided to act upon this life-long passion. I also love […]...

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Edward Miner Gallaudet: My Favorite Person from Deaf History

by Mary Lovik (Lansing, MI) I’ve chosen Edward Miner Gallaudet as my favorite person from Deaf History because he founded Gallaudet University. I have had the pleasure of visiting Gallaudet several times over the past few years because my daughter got her Master’s Degree in ASL interpreting there, and worked there for a year before […]...

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Seinfeld: Humor Nonetheless

by Michael S. (New York) Jerry and George attempting to hide their lips from Laura (Matlin) Reading about all the famous Deaf people, I found that I was unaware of most of the more influential in Deaf History. However, immediately Marlee Matlin came to my mind. It was not from her award winning performance in […]...

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Geronimo Cardano is my favorite, Aristotle is a jerk

by Megan (Arizona) My favorite person from deaf history would probably be Geronimo Cardano because he was the first person to recognize that just because a person was deaf didn’t mean that they were also incapable of learning. Before this discovery, deaf people were written off as stupid and (this breaks my heart) “non-persons” because […]...

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Geronimo Cardano Wow!

by Mieko (New Albany, IN) I have to say that Geronimo Cardano is my favorite person from Deaf History at this point. The reason I chose him is because from Aristotle, one of the greats, all the way to his time, no one had taken a stand to step outside the “box”. To me that […]...

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Geronimo Cardano

by Carspyder As a parent of two hearing children, I am amazed at what I learn from them. I chose Geronimo Cardano as my favorite. As a busy physician having seen and heard all that children who are deaf can not learn, he chose to ignore it. He must have spent much time with his […]...

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Giving God the Credit He is Due

by Abigail Endsley (Houtson, TX, United States of America) Unfortunately, I feel almost materialistic for deciding that Heather Whitestone is my favorite person mentioned on this page. Although, my choice was not made simply because she was beautiful and successful. No, my choice was made because of her attitude and humility. Heather not only did […]...

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Great People of the Deaf Community

by Lexi (Las Vegas) There are so many inspirations in this world, but deaf people inspire me the most. I see deaf people as equals, but much more courageous. The things they overcome just amazes me. Helen Keller surprises me. I can’t imagine being neither deaf nor blind and she was both. And graduating college! […]...

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Heather WhiteStone

by John A. Scott (Vidor, TX United States) Heather Whitestone is my favorite person from deaf history simply because she really did prove, just like Beethoven, that a deaf person can in fact pull things off easily if given a chance. For instance, according to doctors, I have been hearing impaired since the day I […]...

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Helen Keller: A Present Just Waiting to be Unwrapped

by Kristen R. (Oregon, USA) Courtesy of https://worldpersonalities.com. Original at https://worldpersonalities.com/personalities/helen_keller.jpg Deaf History and Culture is something that not many people take the time to think about. However, very important lessons can be learned from these past mistakes and achievements. To me, Helen Keller is one of the most important people in Deaf History because […]...

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Helen Keller: A True Inspiration

by Jessica Kilpatrick (Tennessee) Even though it sounds kind of corny, Helen Keller should be an inspiration to everyone, not just those challenged ones. She was denied TWO things that the average person takes for granted: hearing and eyesight. However even with her hardships, she still held her head high and achieved greatness! As a […]...

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Helen Keller and Deaf-Blind Education

by Contributed (NY) I would like to choose Helen Keller. Working as a volunteer for a non profit religious organization that regularly produces, makes and distributes thousands of American Sign Language DVD’s and Braille publications for Deaf and deaf-blind all over the world, I have had the opportunity to read Helen’s life story and share […]...

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Hmm…who to pick?

by Olivia (USA) This is a difficult choice, who is MY favorite. They are all amazing people, who have done so much to help the deaf and learn about the deaf, and create sign language, and make sign language what it is today. Not to mention, help us hearing ones, learn of the deaf and […]...

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So Much History To Cover

by Carol (White Cloud, MI ) I am not sure I could pick one person that is a favorite at this time. I have already learned so many interesting things from deaf history that are not only educational, but shocking. As a full hearing person, I was taught that Helen Keller was the first deaf […]...

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I Am At A Loss…

by Dorrie (MA) Well, I have read the Deaf History part, as suggested, before writing this. I have even read a few of the other posts to see who people have picked. I am still at a loss. I know that I should read more on all of the historical figures, and I will. But, […]...

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I don’t know!

by Anonymous All of the individuals in this article are all important. Without them, sign language, and potentially the deaf society wouldn’t be the way that it is today. I only have great appreciation for the history and culture that they have provided and encouraged. I was completely ignorant to this culture in the deaf […]...

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Stokoe’s Signs

by Terri (McHenry, IL, USA) Undeniably, William Stokoe had a major impact on Sign Language as we know it today. Mr. Stokoe was instrumental in bringing about legislation within the US government to formally acknowledge sign language as a complete and separate language, as well as a culture, rather than just a subset of any/all […]...

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Inspiration from the Deaf

by Anonymous Village on Taro River by Oreste Carpi I am not deaf, but have been allowed the chance to come across this amazing language, and have started learning it at my school. However I never really took the time to analyze the culture, or the people who’ve founded it. It’s amazing how far these […]...

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Introducing Laura

by Raquel Allende-Herbert (Victorville, CA USA) My favorite deaf person from history could have been one of many. There were so many who had contributed to American Sign Language, to sports and to entertainment. I had to choose Laura Redden Searing to write about. I was drawn to her initially because she shares my mother’s […]...

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Juliette Gordon Low, a Hero to All People

by Jodi J (Parsons, KS, USA) Ms. Low (center) with two Girl Scouts Perhaps no greater tribute can be said than she is not remembered as a “deaf person who” but rather as an outgoing and exciting example of what all people should strive for and that is to be a person of conviction. Ms. […]...

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Thank GOD

by Karen Arnold (Hamilton, IN USA) The persons that I feel contributed most to the advancement of communication with and for the Deaf is GOD because he gave the Deaf, their desire to express themselves and to be understood.As a hearing person, I learned to express myself through hearing others talk. For most people (hearing) […]...

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Laura Bridgman – An Inspiration

by Jorie Pipes (Bloomington, CA) Many people know of the life and achievements of a woman named Helen Keller who defied the odds that were stacked against her. She accomplished what the world viewed as impossible when she graduated from college with honors. Truly she must have been an incredible influence on the future lives […]...

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Laura Bridgman and Me

by Nicole Tucker (Manchester NH) Laura Birdgman was born on December, 21, 1892 to a hard working farm family. At the age of two her and her family became very ill with Scarlet fever. This left her sightless, smell-less, and almost tasteless. Growing up she liked to mimic her mother and help her with house […]...

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Laura Bridgman

by JoEllen Foster (Tyler, Texas USA) Laura Bridgman Laura Bridgman is my favorite person from deaf history. She is my favorite person because she did something no one else had never done before her. She could not take information from former deaf-blind graduates. Laura had to figure out the best way to learn and study […]...

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The First US Deaf Educator

by Lyndee (Missouri) My favorite person from Deaf History would have to be Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet. While I find much of Deaf History intriguing, I am particularly interested in this man. He was essentially the first Deaf Educator in the United States. He was breaking new ground for all future Deaf Educators. I am also […]...

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The Pioneer

by Alex Bryant (Chicago, IL, USA) I picked Geronimo Cardano because without him it would not even be possible for anyone else to improve on or even establish ASL. He was the one who decided that it wasn’t necessary for you to be able to hear in order to learn. Just because you have a […]...

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Leroy Colombo

by Anonymous (California) While Leroy Colombo was not born deaf, he became deaf at the age of seven and went on to become an amazing lifeguard, who saved a total of 907 lives. At the time that he became deaf, he also lost the ability to walk. He was told he would never walk again, […]...

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Longing from afar off…

by Cheri Witmer (Anaconda, MT) This may not be my favorite person, and as little as I have read on deaf history I don’t feel like I can pick just one, so these are just a few of my thoughts…Ever since I was taught the alphabet in sign language I fell in love with it. […]...

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Lou Fant

by Brenda Dawe, NAD IV interpreter and ASL instructor, Kirtland CC (Roscommon, MI) Brenda the Bridge Lou Fant, CODA, is my favorite historical figure. Unlike Stokoe, he could sign, had a Deaf heart and spent his life making services for the Deaf include interpreters. He was instrumental in establishing the Registry of Interpreters of the […]...

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Marlee Matlin and Linda Bove true inspirations!!

by April Cook (Salt Lake City, UT. United States) My favorite people from deaf history are Marlee Matlin and Linda Bove. Marlee Matlin has shown us that being deaf is not a disability. She has accomplished many things in her life and still continues to inspire me. She has the courage to defeat all of […]...

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Marlee Matlin

by Dawn Schulz (Las Vegas) My favorite deaf person, by far, is Marlee Matlin — the youngest woman to ever win an Academy Award for Best Leading Actress (she won at age 21!) Her role in “Children of a Lesser God” was brilliant. She was discovered through children’s theatre, and throughout her lifetime has appeared […]...

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Touched By A Touch

by Janeel Hew (Hawaii) Hands that speak all I needed to hear. In history, time spans endlessly. I, on the other hand, need go back only 40 years to find my favorite person of Deaf Culture in my life. I wish that I could tell you his name, but I never knew it. I did […]...

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My admiration

by Amanda (Greenville, SC) It was not until I read this history lesson that I realized how difficult is must have been growing up deaf. I have been hearing all my life, but I fell in love with a hearing impaired boy in high school. We dated for five years and then married. I knew […]...

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My Choice…

by Lisa Ann (Killeen, Texas) I have always been interested in sign language and was excited to find out more about how to sign, as well as, the history of its development. I was amazed at how little I knew and realized I had not heard of half of these remarkable people in all the […]...

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My Daughter is Amazing!

by Maggie (Pasadena, Md) I would have to say that my favorite person is my daughter. I was her teacher for the past twelve years and I must say that she was a very good student. She took her schooling to heart and learned everything I taught her. Even though I wasn’t the greatest teacher, […]...

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My Favorite Deaf History Figure is Granville Redmond!

by Grace (Canada) Malibu Coast Spring by Granville Redmond My favorite deaf historical figure is Granville Redmond. His struggle to be accepted by the common man is fairly touching, and his paintings are simply out of this world! Throughout his life, he accomplished much more than most do. Aside from creating a wealth of inspiring, […]...

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My Favorite Person from Deaf History is Laurent Clerc

by Michelle Jay (from Start ASL) Laurent Clerc Hello everyone, I’ll start off this discussion :). My favorite person from the history of sign language is Laurent Clerc. Laurent Clerc was the first deaf teacher of the deaf in America. He was also among the first of these educators in the world and has been […]...

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My heart belongs to Abbe de L’EPee

by Julieann (La Carlota City, Philippines) After reading the article, I fell in love with what Abbe de L’Epee had done for the world of the deaf people. Creating the first free school for the deaf was a huge step. It is greatly beneficial to those who have less money. Having an education for free […]...

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My inspiration: Helen Keller

by Myiesha J, Duff (Hueytown, AL) My sister in law, Danielle I chose Helen Keller because she was the first person that I heard about that was deaf and blind. There was a young lady in my church, when I was younger, that was deaf and I thought she was special. She could not hear […]...

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My Least Favorite

by Dianna Hudson (OH) I have to say the Alexander Graham Bell is my least favorite historical figure in the Deaf community. I saw details of his work in the documentary film, “Through Deaf Eyes”. It also stated that he didn’t feel deaf people should marry another deaf person, as this may produce a deaf […]...

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Not just for the deaf

by Anonymous During a recent volunteering event with the Special Olympics I ended up small talking with one of the competitors who was not hard of hearing or deaf, but simply unable to speak because of a problem unrelated to hearing. He used a lot of simple ASL with some short sounds to get his […]...

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Nothing is Impossible

by Tiffany (Pinon Hills CA USA) I came to be on this site because my nephew decided that he wanted to learn ASL. We are both martial arts instructors and plan on opening a school soon. A family came in and their son was totally deaf but wanted to learn karate and there was no […]...

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Oh the ringing irony

by Rebeca (Redding, Ca.) I do not find Alexander Graham Bell to be inspirational or admirable in this case, and yet I must say he is my favorite historical figure. Mr. Bell’s futile attempts to make the deaf community conform was condescending and ignorant. His interest in “helping” the deaf of his time was, in […]...

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Priestly Devotion

by Zengajive (Salt Lake City, UT, USA) One French priest made an extraordinary impact on the education and lives of deaf people in France, and ultimately, the United States. His name is Abbe Charles Michel de L’Epee. In the 1750’s Father de L’Epee was approached by a mother who wanted him to teach her two […]...

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Rebel!

by Robyn Bell (Toledo, WA USA) As a young man L’Epee had certain expectations given to him by the people around him. His father was a well-know architect and probably wanted a great many things from his son. L’Epee decided to study theology. Not a great career choice, but at least something with honor. The […]...

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William Stokoe

by Griselle Merced (Wichita Falls, TX ) I have to say that many of them deserve a recognition, but I will say that William Stokoe took it to the next level, fighting for the rights of the Deaf Community letting the hearing world know like other countries have their own language Deaf people have their […]...

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William Stokoe

by Anonymous My favorite deaf person would have to be William Stokoe. The reason for this is that if he had not brought the importance of American Sign Language to the public then they might still be oppressed. I have several deaf family and have watched them communicate in the community and how people perceive […]...

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A lost part of my culture

by Bridget P. (Weiser, ID USA) Growing up I was a victim of oralism or audism. The doctors and specialists told my mother not to put me in deaf school or for ASL to be taught, rather I was to learn how to speak correctly and read lips. I was mainstreamed in public school and […]...

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A Second Look at Myself

by Samantha (Vermont) I do not believe Helen Keller is the most important person in Deaf History, but I do believe she inspired me the most. I have learned quite a bit about Helen Keller since I was first introduced to her life in the fifth grade. I have glasses, and I am hard of […]...

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Abbe Charles Michel de L’ Epee and Heather Whitestone

by Brandy (St. Cloud, Fl.) I actually have two favorites. One being Abbe Charles de L’Epee because of his determination and compassion to open twenty-one free public schools for deaf children. Helping those in need and doing so with no expectations of money or rewards. He showed courage to stand up for what he believed […]...

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Abbe de L’Epee

by Anonymous I have to say that Abbe de L’Epee is my favorite person from the history of sign language because he is a first timer. I know how hard it is to introduce something new to a group of people and it takes guts. Not many people would dare to go against the current. […]...

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Absolutely Not worthy!

by Cheryl (Kelowna, B.C. Canada) As a hearing person just discovering the wonder and beauty of ASL and the incredible community of people that use it, I am blown away that this part of history wasn’t in the school text books. The culture we all live in and the history we all share is made […]...

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Alexander Graham Bell a Villain?

by Christi (Charleston, WV) This article was very interesting to read. I would have to say my favorite person is Abbe de L’Epee. In reading his story I can see that he truly was a follower of Christ. Christ is our example and Christ became a servant to mankind and gave his life that we […]...

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Alexander Graham Bell

by Anonymous He is not my favorite. He is the one most interesting to me. He is interesting because he had a deaf parent, married a deaf individual, and had deaf children yet he was so against the development of the deaf community. I often wonder why he spent his whole life fighting to get […]...

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The amazing history of the deaf

by Leela Miller (U.S.A) The deaf history of the world is very interesting on its own. I enjoyed reading about both French and American deaf history. I disagree strongly with oralism. It’s very rude for people to say that just because you can’t hear and can’t communicate using speech means you should be denied rights […]...

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The deaf children in France

by Nancy Reynolds (Denton, Md, USA) It may seem strange but these were the children that inspired others to realize how creative and intelligent the deaf really are. They not only devised the signs they could use to communicate but taught others to understand. In reading through deaf history I was amazed at how this […]...

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The Deaf Children

by Sue (Connecticut) In my inept attempt to answer this question, I find myself so ignorant of Deaf history and culture and am amazed how little is taught in our schools. That being said, I am thrilled at the opportunity to now learn all I can on the subject and during this time, I am […]...

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Anne Sullivan

by Christie Busselle (Missouri) “The Miracle Worker” has always been one of my favorite movies. Even when Melissa Gilbert did the remake of it with Patty Duke switching from Helen’s role to Anne’s role. In both movies I felt Anne’s character was the star. She was a woman who, despite her handicap, showed a determination […]...

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The minister and teacher: Dr. Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet

by Lori Reeve (Rodney, MI) As a teacher and Christ-follower myself, I relate well with Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet (1787-1851) who was a social reformer, Congregationalist minister and teacher at heart. Since there were no schools for the Deaf in America at that time, Deaf children from wealthy families were often sent away to special schools […]...

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Any people of color here? If not, I choose William Hoy

by Patricia (Salt Lake City, UT, USA) William Hoy was a very bright man. After completing his high school education, he set up a shoe repair shop and played baseball on the weekends. He was so talented and played so intelligently that he progressed to playing professionally, even in Major League Baseball. He established a […]...

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The People from Deaf History

by Melissa Gschwend (Benson, AZ USA) I can’t say for sure that I have a favorite person from Deaf History. So many people played such wonderful roles in the support and progress of the Deaf. I remember well the Deaf lady that won the Miss America Pageant. I have watched the Helen Keller movie and […]...

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The Strength To Rise Above Disabilities

by Heather (Platteville, Colorado, United States of America) Helen Keller is my favorite famous deaf-blind person in history. She has so many gifts and strengths, they obviously outnumber her disabilities. Her gifts place a large shadow over all her disabilities. Despite her background, she found the honor, courage, strength, and wisdom to rise above her […]...

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Thomas H Gallaudet

by E-L-I-E (Indiana, USA) I cannot believe how much I am learning about the Deaf Culture. Every chapter is fascinating because I had no idea how much there was to learn. I had no idea how much I didn’t know! My favorite person is Thomas H Gallaudet because he was the one who broke through […]...

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Athletics and Deafness

by Amanda C. (Modesto, ca, usa) I’d have to say that my favorite person that I have been introduced to has to be William Hoy, the baseball player. I myself do not know any deaf people or have much interaction with many people in my community that are deaf. However I do work for a […]...

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What are we learning?

by Coco (Texas) In our stream-line schools today in America we virtually do not learn anything of deaf history. We learn of wars and slavery and discoveries, but not about deaf people. As a hearing person, I think the only deaf person I had ever heard of in school was Helen Keller. Her story was […]...

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Whoever started the Total Communication Movement

by CCR (PR) This is an unfair question because Deaf History has too many great persons to only choose one. If I had to choose it would be a tie between Pedro Ponce de Leon, Juan Pablo de Bonet and Abbe Charles Michel de L’Epee. I believe these inspiring individuals took it upon themselves to […]...

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William C. Stokoe Jr, A Present History In The Making

by Monique Fournier-Lavoie (Whitefish, ON Canada) After having carefully read and reread Step Three in The ASL Student’s Essential Guide To Learning American Sign Language And Getting Involved In The Deaf Community, I took an immediate interest in the work and dedication of William C. Stokoe Jr. (1919-2000) I went on to further educate myself […]...

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William “Dummy” Hoy: Deaf Wonder

by Andrew (Florida) It makes me sad when I see or hear about others mistreating the deaf. It shocks me to know that there was a time that they were not accepted. However, it warms my heart to see a plethora of people making their mark for deaf people; some of them even for the […]...

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William Ellsworth Hoy

by Keith Boepple (Arlington, TX) A picture of Dummy Hoy My favorite historical figure from Deaf History is one of the least known – even in his own field. His name is William Ellsworth Hoy. He was often called “Dummy” Hoy. He is the first Deaf Person to have a successful career in Major League […]...

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William Hoy

by Emma Hill (Seaside Oregon) It was so neat to read about William Hoy. I hadn’t known about him until reading this account of deaf history, which is really well written by the way. It was short, but so full of pertinent information. I think you’re absolutely right, it is amazing that he’s not better […]...

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William Stokoe finally gets the world to hear

by Jude Mitchell (Apple Valley, CA U.S.A.) I actually have three favorites. The first is Ludwig Von Beethoven. He developed his own method of composing music even though he was deaf. By placing his cheek on the top of the piano while he played, he could actually feel the sound. My second is Marlee Matlin. […]...

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Beethoven or Helen Keller?

by Adam B. (United States) A portrait by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1820 For me, it is extremely hard to decide between Ludwig Van Beethoven and Helen Keller. Honestly, my favorite *historical* figure is Beethoven. Beethoven is very influential and overall impressive in the things he did. Around age 41 (approximate), he was almost completely deaf. […]...

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Belinda

by Belinda Well, I really don’t have a favorite person from deaf history. I do love reading about deaf history and all they have gone through. Each story about each person is amazing to me. I went to a church many years ago where the pastor’s wife taught some beginning ASL classes. ASL is so […]...

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Abbe de L’Epee

by Sean (VA) It is actually hard to pick just one because all of them played important roles. But if I had to pick just one I would pick Abbe de L’Epee because he saw a need and put his all into trying to help. A lot of us today see many people in need […]...

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Candace Schultz/Helen Keller

by Amanda (Montrose, CO USA) I first heard of Helen Keller in the third grade, and was just amazed by her story. I couldn’t imagine anyone going through life not only blind but deaf too. The following summer, I met my cousin, Candace, from California for the first time. I had never been told she […]...

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Can’t pick just one…

by Greta D’Amico (Auburn, CA, USA) I would have to say that there are three categories of people that really stand out to me as heroes for the Deaf. First, those dedicated souls who didn’t give up on their deaf students. I am especially impressed with Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, who was so determined to […]...

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Caring is the Key

by Amanda (Joplin, MO USA) My favorite person from Deaf history would have to be Abbe Charles Michel de L’Epee born 1712 in Versailles. Before he came along, deaf people were cast aside and treated like they were useless to society and could not be taught anything. L’Epee wanted to be a priest but because […]...

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Alexander Graham Bell

by Heather (Liberty, MO, USA) I know that Alexander Graham Bell is a very controversial figure in Deaf culture, understandably. I can also see how his invention isolated an already oppressed people group–the entire deaf community for many years. However, I think it is amazing how his invention has come full-circle. Without the invention of […]...

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Children of Deaf Adults

by John W Dudley (Corpus Christi TX) Born 1933 on a black land farm near Penelope Texas raised by Deaf Grandparents and grew up with deaf siblings, family and friends. Most of whom attended The State School for the Deaf in Austin Texas. Who is my favorite – WOW! But one I will always remember […]...

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Anne Sullivan

by Annie (plattsmouth nebraska usa) I believe the person I admire most in the history of the deaf would have to be a person who was not deaf at all but a person who had a tremendous impact on a persons life who was deaf and on many who are not deaf, Anne Sullivan. From […]...

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Marlee Matlin -A Super Star born

by Peggy B. (Los Angeles, Calif.) Before reading your piece on deaf history, I didn’t know there were so many important/famous deaf people. Marlee Matlin is the only deaf person that I could remember and admire. She has so much courage to be out in the spotlight. I admire her very much. I see her […]...

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Dr. Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet

by Holly (UK) Here is a man that went to great lengths to educate a child that was not even his own. A child that most people would not have taken the time to bother with as it would have been difficult to communicate with her. How did he know she was bright? He must […]...

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Marlee Matlin

by Shannon (West Columbia, SC, USA) In order for a person to be a significant role in history, they really need to be known. Someone like Helen Keller gets the credit for being the first deaf/blind person because that’s who we have heard about. She made an impact by “getting heard” by the population. (pardon […]...

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Geronimo Cardano

by Rebecca Brown (Hudson Ohio USA) Geronimo Cardano Geronimo Cardano was my fave because he was the first to realize that deaf people are just as smart as hearing they just cant hear. I think he should have gotten more credit because he worked with his son and made the discovery. I also just thought […]...

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Marlee Matlin

by Jesse-Linn Masters (Chicago, IL) If you haven’t seen “What the bleep do we know” stop reading this and go watch it right now. This incredible movie, staring Marlee Matlin may not be “Children of a Lesser God” or any of Matlin’s more well known roles, but it was the first I saw her in […]...

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Heather Whitestone

by Maggie Walker (Nashville, TN, USA) The person I find most interesting in ASL history is Heather Whitestone. Women in general are so often put down because of looks, body figures, and other nonsense. It’s even worse for deaf women. Not only do they already have all the regular weight from society on their shoulders, […]...

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Deaf Advocate

by Lois Diamond (Sacramento, CA) My favorite was Frederick Schreiber, former President of the NAD. He was a simple man with a simple ego and his humble leadership resulted in many Deaf organizations being established as well as Deaf taking on leadership from his example. Today we have many leaders with big egos in search […]...

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My Ancestor

by Rebecca (Alabama) My favorite significant role in the history of sign language has to be my ancestor Helen Keller. She comes from my dad’s side of my family tree. It wasn’t easy finding out but when I did it was amazing how much I had found out about her and how much she had […]...

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My favorite deaf educator is Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet

by Becca (Paraguay, South America ) My favorite person in the history of deaf education is Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet. What I admire most about him was the sacrifice he made for one little girl. I was impressed that he was interested in her life enough to go all the way to Europe to learn the […]...

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Helen Keller

by Priscilla Herrera (Houston,Texas U.S.A) The reason I choose Helen Keller is because she not only being blind but also deaf demonstrated that impaired people can also lead a very good life. She demonstrated to everyone that being impaired doesn’t make her or anyone else in the same position any different from everyone else. And […]...

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Helen Keller

by Andrea Hawkins (North Carolina) I remember watching The Miracle Worker with my mother when I was a child and it is still one of my favorite movies to this day. Helen Keller changed a lot for persons who were deaf especially at that time in society. To become the first deaf and blind person […]...

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Helen Keller

by Patty (Florida) I truly respect Helen Keller. She was a woman who went after what she wanted, she did not let her handicap slow her down or stop her. By Helen going out and getting the education she wanted she showed many people that it could be done and she gave them the insight […]...

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Helen Keller

by Abby Plump (Haubstadt, IN) Helen Keller (8) with Anne Sullivan on vacation in Cape Cod There are many great people in deaf history, ones that earned rights, encouraged signed language, started organizations, but what would that all mean if nobody ever put it to good use and showed what a deaf person can really […]...

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Helen Keller

by Alicia Montgomery (Marysville, CA USA) The first time I heard about Helen Keller was in 1968, the year she died, I was 10 years old. I was immediately intrigued by what I was hearing about her on TV. My curiosity got the best of me and I had to go to the library and […]...

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Deaf people. Deaf History.

by Jenna (WA) Honestly, I don’t think I could choose one person to be my favorite of all Deaf people. I mean, after all, the reason we have Deaf History is because of the people. Before studying up on Deaf History, I never knew how many people were subject to the great changes made by […]...

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Helen Keller

by Hannah (NH) My favorite deaf person has definitely got to be Helen Keller. She was not only deaf, she was also blind, too, and was amazingly able to learn how to read people’s lips by feeling them move. She was also able to learn to talk by feeling the vibrations that came from a […]...

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Deaf President Now

by Novalie Bulin (Mansfield TX) My favorite among the Deaf Community are those young adults who stood their ground and demanded a Deaf President Now. It took great courage and strength of character to stand up for themselves and the students of the future. They finally got the attention of society that the Deaf have […]...

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Helen Keller

by Mitch Saffle (Burlingame, KS, USA) Helen Keller has to be my favorite Deaf person. She accomplished so much for being Deaf… and blind! I’m learning sign right now and I think that it’s pretty hard. But I can’t even imagine the struggles she had to go through, I mean I’m hearing and I can […]...

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Name forgotten but lesson remembered

by Anonymous I was surprised to read that President Lincoln played a role in deaf history. This is something that isn’t mentioned in American history. I know most Americans wouldn’t care about legislation allowing college degrees to be issued from a Deaf college. Maybe that is why I find history boring they don’t include interesting […]...

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No Limits

by Gloria (Philadelphia, PA) The Abbe de L’Eppe is my favorite role model in deaf history. In a world where deaf people were considered unteachable and basically useless solely based on their inability to hear, the Abbe did not follow conventional thought and took the first step to bring equality in education and human rights […]...

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Marlee Matlin

by Becky (Hamlin, PA) I pick Marlee Matlin as my favorite deaf person. I wasn’t going to submit an answer to this question, because I didn’t think my reason was very impressive. Back in high school, I loved the show MacGyver. At some point, she dated Richard Dean Anderson. And since ASL has always fascinated […]...

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Difficult to say

by Aurora To be honest, I can’t really choose a favourite person from Deaf history since I am just now learning and getting involved with ASL. I can only say that I admire and respect all those who have helped bring knowledge and acknowledgment to deaf people’s culture and need for recognition. Oppression of any […]...

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Nothing is Impossible

by Lauren (Lake Wales, FL) Wow! How amazing. I never knew much of anything about Deaf history, and it is so interesting. I knew the bare basics of Helen Keller from books and TV and that Gallaudet was a very special school. I also knew some about Heather Whitestone because my cousin, Angela Hunt, wrote […]...

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Discovering the Beauty of Sign Language

by Kendra Wolcott I’ll never forget the first time I truly witnessed Sign Language in use: I was lazing around in my room, absent-mindedly watching a music video on YouTube when I noticed that during the final few moments of the video, the lead singer, rather than simply mouthing the words to the chorus, signed […]...

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Thomas H. Gallaudet

by Lisa Groves (Camdenton, MO) I found it very difficult to choose just one favorite, but in the interest of the essay subject I chose Thomas H. Gallaudet. He must have been very dedicated to learning the best possible ways to educate the deaf because in his day making a trip to Europe was no […]...

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Helen Keller

by Lindsey Vasquez (California) Helen Keller is the reason why I decided to learn sign language. In sixth grade we were watching a video about Helen Keller and when I saw her sign, I was totally amazed that people could communicate with their hands and bodies. That’s when I decided that I wanted to learn […]...

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William “Dummy” Hoy

by Leah (London, ON, CA) I was born hard of hearing and I have heard of a few famous deaf people on and off in my life such as Helen Keller, Beethoven, Alexander Graham Bell, Heather Whitestone, Sue Thomas, Deanne Bray, Marlee Matlin, etc. I admire everyone that I listed above especially Sue Thomas for […]...

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Marlee Matlin

Deaf Academy Award Winner Marlee Matlin is my very favorite deaf actress. She is truly amazing, and I get excited everytime I see that see will be acting in something else. She was born in Morton Grove, Illinois on August 24th, 1965. After she came down with the German Measles at the age of eighteen […]...

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LeRoy Colombo

by Leah Ward (Williamsburg, Virginia, U.S.) LeRoy Colombo LeRoy Colombo was born on December 23, 1905 in Galveston, Texas. He was diagnosed with spinal meningitis when he was seven years old, which caused him to lose his hearing and the use of his legs. His brothers helped him to swim and within the next year […]...

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Who is Your Favorite Person from Deaf History? Share Your Thoughts!

There are so many people who played a significant role in the history of sign language. So, naturally, everyone is bound to have a favorite!

Who is YOUR favorite historical figure? Is it Abbe de L’Epee? Thomas H. Gallaudet? Alexander Graham Bell? Share your thoughts!

For Start ASL Assignment Submissions: Don’t forget to tell us why this person is your favorite as well–make it a good well thought-out answer of at least 500 words. Try to also think outside the box and perhaps choose someone who hasn’t been mentioned yet. It will be fun to see why everyone chose who they did! 🙂

Who is Your Favorite Person from the history of sign language?
Submit It Here!

Comments

  • As someone who is just starting to learn about deaf History and culture, I don’t feel like I can choose just one favorite. Based off of this article alone, I really believe that Louis Laurent Clerc was a huge influence and a great educator for the deaf community. He seemed to have a real passion to educate the deaf and spent the better part of his life doing just that. His legacy still lives on in deaf schools across the world. I also found it fascinating to learn about William Hoy. My daughter plays softball and it was very interesting to read how he influenced the umpire signals used today and made a lasting impact on the game even though he isn’t widely known outside the deaf community. In further reading about deaf historical figures, I was surprised to discover that Thomas Edison was also deaf, something I may have learned years ago in school, but had not thought about or realized again until now. I wish schools would teach more of these kinds of stories and facts and incorporate these people into their history lessons instead of only teaching Helen Keller for deaf history. Thank you for this article and for enlightening me on deaf people who made an impact.

  • It’s hard to choose, but Hellen Keller has to be my favorite person in sign language history. I have watched documentaries and read biographies about her because her story is inspirational. She is my favorite because she broke down so many barriers and proved to the world that the deaf and blind can be successful.

  • From reading this article I can not possibly choose one favourite person but to me Juan Pablo de Bonet is amazing as he was one of the first to try and teach a deaf student other than his child. I admire those who created ways to teach their own children but to me Bonet stepped outside of the comfort zone. He chose to do something that was very uncommon at the time . When those that were deaf were typically pushed aside and disregarded he decided to create a manual language and use his own methods to teach. To me that takes courage, to go against what other people are saying and just try any way. That is something that I think each person in sign language history did, the went against the norm (well except Alexander Graham Bell, but lets not get into that). I couldn’t imagine having to deal with people like that saying that I was unable to learn or communicate effectively (I’m hearing) I’m thankful for those who paved the way and the ability to learn sign today.

  • Helle can I please have a name for the author of this article? Thanks I need it for a project

    • Hi Reilly, You can use the name Michelle Jay. 🙂

  • I am inspired by Dr. Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet. I am amazed at the passion he had for teaching the deaf. For a man to leave his home country, his family and friends, and his ministry, and travel half way across the world simply to learn how to teach the deaf is mind boggling. And why did he do it? Because he had a young deaf girl as a neighbor; not a family member, but just a neighbor. What love and care he must have had for that young lady and her family to go to such lengths to help her. Also he took it a step farther and started a public school for the deaf, inviting the deaf to come from all over the country. He not only did all of the above, but he made teaching the deaf his life long ministry. I find such a commitment extremely intriguing. Oh that people in today’s day and age would have such compassion for others! I, myself have had a strong, burning desire to learn sign language and to work with the deaf for as long as I can remember, but I’m not sure that even I could say that I have that kind of a commitment to it.

  • Anne Sullivan is most interesting to me, because, even though she did not have hearing loss herself, she overcame her own visual impairment to prove that Deaf/Blind individuals can learn to read, write, and speak fluently. She overcame innumerable obstacles in her fight to educate Helen Keller whose family and herself did not make it easy for this first-time teacher. Sullivan dedicated her entire life and health to educating, interpreting for, and supporting Helen Keller. She was so successful that Keller learned multiple languages, gave speeches around the world, and wrote articles and a memoir without assistance. After graduating from university, Helen Keller became an enormous advocate of education for the Deaf, Deaf/Blind, and individuals with other disabilities. Without Anne Sullivan, none of that would have been possible, and Helen would have languished without language or direct interaction, probably ending up in an asylum.

  • At the risk of coming across as a cliche, I have to say that Abbe de L’Eppe is my favorite person from the history of American Sign Language. Reading about how much he did for the Deaf community brought tears to my eyes and inspiration to my heart. The fact that he decided to learn how to communicate properly with the Deaf instead of forcing his usual ways of communication onto them was an extremely honorable rarity for that time period. Though everyone should have that mind-set, it was uncommon and amazing that he was able to stray from what others thought and aid the Deaf in showing their true potential. I definitely understand the reasoning behind his being named “Father of the Deaf.”

  • I first learned about Sue Thomas through the T.V. show named after her. It was this show, I think, that sparked my long lasting interest in learning ASL. The lead role is played by Deanne Bray who portrays Sue Thomas so well.
    Sue has such great faith in God that has held her through so many trials in her life. After her mom passed away she started a program called Silent Night to help homeless people. There is also The Levi Foundation, a dog training centre named in honour of her first hearing dog, Levi. She has written a book, learned piano, and worked for the F.B.I. Thomas has accomplished so many things in her life.
    Along with Sue Thomas F.B.Eye, I recently found another movie called No Ordinary Hero. It shows a little bit of what life for Deaf people is like. You can see how some people can be so rude and others can be more understanding.
    If I had to choose someone else in Deaf history who lived a little longer ago, I would probably choose William Stokoe. He proved that ASL is a language in and of itself, and without him, I don’t know if this website, StartASL.com, would have been created in the first place

Please leave only comments that add to the article or discussion. Any help or support comments should be directed to Start ASL Help & Support. Thank you!