James Balis (Deaf American)

From a poem he wrote: (1901)

“…And, tho’ deaf to the wearying tumults of Earth.

Through the eye, I drink in, All to know ‘tis of worth.”


Ferdinand Berthier (Deaf Frenchman)

“We do not speak, it is true, but think

We can express ourselves just as well with eyes, and hands, and smiles and lips.

Our most attractive discourse is found on the tips our fingers

And our language, rich in secret beauty

That you, poor speaking people, will never understand.”

(excerpt of poem translated from French to English by Mike Gulliver)

Alexander Graham Bell (Hearing Scott / Canadian / American)

‘the main object of the education of the deaf is to fit them to live in the world of a hearing-speaking people.’

‎”We should try ourselves to forget that they are deaf. We should try to teach them to forget that they are deaf.”


JH Cloud (Deaf American)

“The deaf would like to believe that Dr. Bell’s fame as a successful investigator in the realm of technical electricity has not influenced public opinion unduly when he has spoken on the subject of education or marriage of the deaf….The deaf do believe that Dr. Bell is wellmeaning and sincere in his interest in them.  That he is following a course better calculated to promote their welfare and happiness than that which their own experience has taught them, they do not believe.” (1914)

Amos Draper (Deaf American)

“…the spirit of intolerance that is characteristic of ulta oralism…”


“When our ship reached Liverpool this morning and from her deck were seen several of your number conversing in the crowd that stood upon those wonderful docks, it recalled that line of your greatest poet which says, ‘One touch of nature makes the whole world kin;’ for though you dwell here upon an island and we upon a continent beyond the seas, yet in all essentials our experiences are probably the same.  If you have troubles we can sympathize with you, for we have the same troubles; or if you have joys, those joys are ours, and we rejoice with you.”



Pierre Desloges (Deaf Frenchman)

“I cannot understand how a language like sign language – this richest in expressions, the most energetic, the most incalculably advantageous in its universal intelligibility – is still so neglected and that only the Deaf speak it (as it were). That is, I confess, one of those irrationalities of the human mind that I cannot explain.”

“Every person carries the seed of it (sign language), so to speak, within himself; circumstances effortlessly promote the seed’s germination and the language flowers without teacher or method.”



Ernest Dusuzeau (Deaf Frenchman)

“If God makes the wheat grow, he has also given the deaf person sign language…There is a law that punishes the wrong that one does by trimming the wings of a bird:  there ought to be one that punishes the wrong that one does by forbidding the deaf from using signs.”


Abbe de l’Epee (Hearing Frenchman)

“…how to go about bringing in through the window what cannot come in through the door, namely , to insinuate into the minds of the Deaf through the visual channel what cannot reach them through the auditory channel.” (1784)

 Claudius Forestier (Deaf, Frenchman)

to prohibt sign language would be like “[tearing} out our soul, for it is in our nature, the life of our thoughts…”  It is…”theonly and true way to lead our brothers to an understanding of the national language.” (1889)

“Brothers!  In other times you wandered lost in the world, you were all but ignored, and you vegetated in sad isolation.  You lived only for the sake of living.  Your joys and sorrows were locked in your hearts and found not responsive echoes beyond them.  Your ill fortune inspired in some a sterile and occasionally disdainful pity; and in others the repugnance and disgust that a worm inspires in a passerby who squashes it.  But now, what a change!  The stature that belongs of the right to the intelligent in our society has been restored to you.  You will meet, time and again, among our brothers who speak, men who will hasten to offer you their friendship, their services, to put their talents at your disposal.  Why did this great change come about?  It has come to you because you have become a nation.”


Andrew Foster (Deaf, American)

“The logic of this group of educators (pure oralists) is that it is the normal means by which normal people communicate…Employing restrictive and suppressive means of communication to achieve normalcy seem as illogical as it is impractical…quite universally, they (the oral ‘successes’) are overshadowed by the number of failures, a fact which rarely seems to bother exponents of the oral method…The loudest advocates of ‘demutization‘ are teachers and theorists who have no firsthand knowledge of living among the deaf.  They seldom have anything to do with the deaf after they reach adulthood, when the effects of oralism could be better gauged.  Few are the deaf adults themselves who look back upon their pure oral schooling and wholeheartedly endorse the method….Language skills are best learned through free usage; they evolve and expand in an atmosphere of freedom, as with hearing children.”  (1975)


M. Henri Gaillard (Deaf Frenchman)

“It is not enough for each nation to work for the betterment of the condition of its own deaf.  It is necessary for the nations to get together and work together in unison.” (1918)

Edwin Allan Hodgson (Deaf American)

“Taking into consideration the meager educational facilities and the inadequate provisions for instructing the deaf in the infant years of the first school, coupled with the advanced ages and short terms of the pupils, one is amazed at the the wonderful results attained.  Shall we credit it to the teachers, or to the extraordinary native talent of the pupils? Or was it because of the broad, free untrammeled use of the sign language, which was the basis of the French system employed?”

“The little seed that Gallaudet planted at Hartford became a tree of enlightenment, which has burgeoned and grown and expanded until its overspreading branches encompass a continent, wherein the boon and blessing of an education to every deaf child no longer depends upon sporadic charity or private opulence, but is vested in the economic wisdom and careful liberality of the State.”

–1917 (ASD Centennial Celebration)


Jay Cooke Howard (Deaf American)

“There was a banquet [in Staunton in 1914] of the editors and correspondents of papers published at the schools for the deaf.  Two-thirds of those present were deaf and every person present, with the exception of one guest, was a past master in the use of the sign language.  It would seem natural, and the dictates of common courtesy would require, that the sign language be used.  However, with the possible exception of Dr. Argo, of Colorado, every hearing man who responded to a toast or took active part in the proceedings insisted upon speaking orally.  It was necessary for interpreter to convey their remarks to the deaf, who felt like strangers at their own banquet.  It might not be out of place to suggest to some of those connected with schools for the deaf that courtesy, like honesty, is often the best policy.  If courtesy is not congenital it may be acquired.” (1915)


J. Schuyler Long (Deaf American)

“…the people who prevent the sign language being used in the education of the deaf, both inside and outside the class rooms, are denying to the deaf their free mental grwoth through natural expression of their ideas, and are in the same class a criminals.” (1908)


Jean Massieu (Deaf Frenchman)

“Gratitude is the memory of the heart”


Robert P. McGregor (Deaf American)

“Doctors don’t teach…when they trespass in the realm of education, they are out of their sphere”

“They (oralists) will try to teach him to say ‘bread,’ but the child may die of starvation before he learns.”

“Shall we remain silent and do nothing?


Alexander Pach (Deaf American)

“What an irony of fate that this wonderful man, who has accomplished so much good in annihilating time and space; and made it possible for people to hear the voices of others, even though thousands of miles apart, is utterly helpless to make his own voice heard to his wife when he stands besides her!” (1915)


Dr. James L. Smith (Deaf American)

“The enemies of sign language are not confined to those who decry it and call for its abolition entirely. Its most dangerous enemies are in the camp of its friends, in the persons of those who maltreat it and abuse it by misuse. The sign language, properly used, is a language of grace, beauty, [and] power. But through careless or ignorant use it may become ungraceful, repulsive, difficult to comprehend”  (1904)

Agatha Tiegel (Hanson)

“I resented that there might be any question of the right, the God given right, of my sisters and myself to take our places in the sun.”  (1937)
“Civilization is too far advanced not to acknowledge the justice of woman’s cause. She herself is too strongly impelled by a noble hunger for something better than she has known, too highly inspired by the vista of the glorious future, not to rise with determination and might and move on till all barriers crumble and fall.” (1893, The Intellect of Woman)

Douglas Tilden (Deaf American)

“We denounce every attempt at discouraging, suppression, or destruction of the sign language as a circumvention of the spirit of the Constitution guaranteeing the inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness.”

George W. Veditz (Deaf American)

“And right here let me say that the organized deaf do not understand their own might. It is in their power, if united, to dictate to the schools what methods of education should be pursued therein. Their cause is so palpably just that public, legislators and parents must in the end side with them.”

“We constitute ourselves a militant vigilance committee to guard the interests and welfare of our class.”

George W. Veditz in an October 30, 1911 letter to Douglas Tilden:

“My belief is unshaken that there is but ONE great, cardinal issue that should engage the thought and effort of the American deaf, and that is the elimination of the pure-oral incubus from their schools. Federation, the acquistion of an endowment or income fund, the Moving Pictures scheme, were all means toward this end as I understand them.

To my mind those that would divert the deaf from the first of these two movements and dissipate their energies in a chase after “imposters” etc, are traitors to their cause and enemies in disguise and under the same blanket with the pure-oral propagandists.”  (1911)

“The McGregor is dead. In quietude rest forever the warm heart, the active mind, the vibrantly speaking fingers…oh weep, American deaf, and let your tears be those of sorrow for a loss that cannot be replaced..The foremost of your gladiators who fought for you in the arena of public opinion is dead!”

“They were an earnest band there gathered, as earnest in their way as were the men and women who 260 years before landed on Plymouth Rock. Like those Pilgrims they wanted freedom—freedom from repression, from popular prejudice and misrepresentation, freedom to strive for and hold their own in the struggle for happiness as it is held out to every American.”

“If oral magicians who yank educational rabbits out of silk hats and pearls of speech out of the mouths of those who have never heard, choke over it, why bless ‘em!”

“Leaving the past for the present, what is our outlook? Everything depends on the man you make president and on the instructions you give him by resolutions duly adopted.”

“The Association has been drifting like a ship without a compass or rudder. Elect a man who will truly be a captain with his hand on the tiller.”

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