Historical Deaf Women

Yesterday, I exercised my right to vote as an American deaf woman.  Women have been able to vote since 1920, but it wasn’t until 1964 that deaf women were allowed to vote in the National Association of the Deaf (a non-profit organization to empower deaf and hard of hearing individuals).

As a deaf woman in America, I am ever grateful to live in a country where deaf people are able to vote, get an education, drive cars, get married and have families.  Such privileges are unfortunately denied to deaf people (especially women) in many parts of the world.

In light of March being Women’s History Month, here are some fascinating facts about deaf women who made history.

Back in 1817, an intelligent young deaf girl named Alice Cogswell inspired her teacher Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet to found the world’s first University for the Deaf (now Gallaudet University in D.C.).

The well-known Helen Keller also proved that physical limitations do not limit one’s desire and ability to pursue a formal education.  She was the first deaf-blind person to earn a bachelor of arts degree in 1904.

The founder of Girl Scouts of America (1913), Juliette Gordon Low, was deaf.  She lost her hearing in one ear due to chronic ear infections, then became completely deaf after her wedding day when a piece of good-luck rice was thrown in her other ear, puncturing her ear drum.  (Enjoy those thin mints!)

Also deaf was Gertrude Ederle, the first woman to swim across the English Channel in 1926.  She was called “America’s best girl” by President Calvin Coolidge.

In the 1930s and 40s, Charlotte Lamberton was a deaf professional dancer appearing in Broadway and Hollywood productions.  She kept rhythm by using vibrations.

In 1987, the Best Actress Academy Award went to Marlee Matlin–the first deaf actress (and the youngest one at 21!) ever to be awarded.

More recently, Claudia Gordon became the first deaf African American female attorney and served in the White House Office of Public Engagement.

And the list goes on…

Life as a deaf woman today would certainly look different if not for these historical deaf women who made an impact on society.

My hat’s off to them–with thin mints in hand!  🙂



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