Society for American Sign Language Journal

Document Type



The attention to deaf women during an important part of United States history when oralism dominated the education of deaf children is sparse. This motivated the research undertaken for this paper questioning what role deaf women played and the strategies they adopted to promote deaf children’s sign language rights. A review of historical documents indicates that there are a number of deaf women who fought along with the rest of the deaf community against the oral only movement in the instruction of deaf children during the late nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century. A number of recurring themes have been identified based on deaf women’s rhetoric that underlie their strong intuition supporting American Sign Language as a language in its own right. The lack of scientific or linguistic research at the time did not deter deaf women from promoting sign language. Moreover, deaf women felt obligated to correct erroneous perceptions held by many educators during the turbulent time of intolerance and ignorance for human rights. This paper takes a look at how deaf women fought for their language and rejected oralism through insightful arguments to achieve education equality for deaf children in schools throughout the United States.



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