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. He didn’t give up. He recruited the community to find a solution. This involved going overseas to learn from the best about sign language at National Institute for Deaf-Mutes (the first of its kind in Europe). This was not a normal feat. This would have taken time and a lot of money for the round-trip. He took time away from his occupation as a minister in America to eventually “minister” to Alice and so many more.
Once he felt he had adequate information to make a difference, he returned home. However, Gallaudet also brought back to America another teacher, Laurent Clerc – one of the best teachers in Europe for sign language. This act enabled Gallaudet to continue to learn while still being able to teach others. Gallaudet was thinking both for the present and the future for Americans who were and would eventually be deaf. The ability to think beyond the here-and-now gave a strong foundation for American Sign Language today.
Finally, once Gallaudet arrived back in America, he not only taught Alice, which was his main reason; he also taught many others. These deaf students came from all over America to have an equal chance for an education. Eventually, due to Gallaudet’s one school, many other deaf schools opened throughout America through the students of his first school. From these schools, more and more deaf students had the opportunity to learn, also. In the end, his son, Edward continued the work of his father in American Sign Language.
Gallaudet was a major key factor in the foundation of American Sign Language. He contributed so much from his desire for deaf society to be a vital part, providing a school where many other schools began, and providing the signs we now use today. American Sign Language would not be what it is today without the integral part of Thomas Gallaudet.