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ASL (American Sign Language ) by Parhamr (Own work) Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons [View Image]
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ASL (American Sign Language) by Parhamr (Own work)
Photo: Public Domain


Entries concerning the history and development of services, treatment and education of persons with deafness and hearing loss.

In the past, these people were often identified as “deaf and dumb” or as “deaf-mute,” meaning with profound hearing loss and either unable to speak or choosing not to. Today the preferred term is simply “deaf.”


  • A Hard Life (1893)And now a pitiful yet inspiring story of another unfortunate child comes to us. She was born in Texas, and when fifteen months old had learned only two words -- mamma and papa. Then she had a serious illness, by which she lost eyesight and hearing, and was doomed to a life of imprisonment, into which no sound or ray of light could penetrate.
  • Alexander Graham Bell and His Role in Oral EducationWritten by Brian H. Greenwald, Ph.D., Gallaudet University. "The promise of a more homogeneous society allowed oralism to emerge as the most attractive option to educate deaf people. Such strategies paralleled the general assimilation movement through the supposed uplifting of the deaf community by halting sign language use, reducing the importance of residential schools, and decreasing intermarriage among deaf partners."
  • Asylum for the Deaf and DumbWritten by John Crowley/ The Connecticut Asylum for the Education and Instruction of Deaf and Dumb Persons, the first permanent school for deaf Americans, opened in 1817. At that time, “dumb” meant only “unable to speak” but in early America almost all those who were born deaf never learned to communicate with others except by home-made signs, and deaf people were often regarded as cognitively impaired as well.
  • Bridgman, Laura DeweyHalf a century before Helen Keller, the "Original Helen Keller," Laura Dewey Bridgman, became the first deaf and blind person to learn a language. By the time that Helen Keller became famous in the early twentieth century, Bridgman's story had faded and been forgotten -- but like Keller, Bridgman moved souls around the world by triumphing over her multiple disabilities.
  • Bridgman, Laura: Early EducationSamuel Gridley Howe had multiple goals for his work with Laura Bridgman. On the one hand, he wanted to provide her with a thorough education. On the other hand, he hoped to use her as a means of revealing the process of human development and the true nature of humanity. Howe thought that because he could control much of Bridgman's sensory input, he would be able to better understand how people learned language, developed religious sensibilities, and other characteristic human abilities....
  • Clerc, Monsieur LaurentThomas Gallaudet had come to England to learn about education for the deaf in hopes of setting up a school in Connecticut. At Sicard's invitation, Gallaudet accompanied the Frenchmen back to Paris, where he spent some months at the Institution. When he grew homesick for Hartford, Laurent Clerc agreed to return with him and help him set up a school and be its first teacher.
  • Committee Of The Connecticut Asylum For The Education And Instruction Of Deaf And Dumb Persons (1817)The founders of the Connecticut Asylum—like most educators of the deaf during the antebellum years—saw their primary goal as saving the souls of deaf children. This goal reflected the influence of the Second Great Awakening and, in particular, religious reformers’ hope that social reforms would help to bring about the Millennium. This is an Abridged Text of the Report.
  • Contract Between Thomas Gallaudet And Laurent Clerc (1816)Thomas Gallaudet, a Congregationalist minister, and Laurent Clerc, a French Roman Catholic, formed a partnership to establish an institution of deaf education. This partnership was formalized in the following contract, written before Clerc traversed the Atlantic with Gallaudet. One important aspect of their contract pertained to their religious differences.
  • Eighth Report Of The Directors Of The American Asylum For The Education And Instruction Of The Deaf And Dumb (1824)"During the first half of the nineteenth century, deaf educators saw their primary goal as ensuring that deaf students learned the Christian gospel. Like educators of blind children and those labeled as idiotic, teachers of deaf children had several other goals, including teaching basic academic skills and providing vocational training. This report also discusses some of the challenges faced by educators of deaf children and their counterparts at schools for blind and idiotic children..."
  • Gallaudet, Rev. Thomas Gallaudet met a young deaf girl named Alice Cogswell, the daughter of his neighbor, an eminent surgeon named Mason Fitch Cogswell. Gallaudet attempted to teach Alice to read, but his limited success was frustrating. Alice's father was actively trying to establish a school in Connecticut for deaf children. The best-known educators of deaf people at the time were the Braidwood family, who had schools in London and Edinburgh, where they charged high fees for their instruction. A small number of well-to-do American children had gone to England to study with the Braidwoods, and Cogswell persuaded Gallaudet to go to Britain and investigate their educational methods
  • Helen Keller. A Second Laura Bridgman (1888)Michael Anagnos, the superintendent of the Perkins Institution and Samuel Gridley Howe’s son-in-law, played a major role in turning Hellen Keller and Anne Sullivan into celebrities. In this annual report from the Perkins Institution, Anagnos reflects on Bridgman’s education and compares her work with Keller’s startlingly quick progress under Sullivan’s tutelage.
  • On The Duties And Advantages Of Affording Instruction To The Deaf And Dumb (1824)A sermon by Thomas Gallaudet, 1824. Gallaudet saw deaf education in general and sign language in particular as the means by which an evangelical vision could be universalized.
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