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The information included in this section deals with resources and stories unique to D/deaf women, including pregnancy and mothering, therapy, access to health care, and life experiences. The D/deaf world consists of those who identify with Deaf culture (Deaf is capitalized) where sign language is the primary method of communication, or oralism (deaf is not capitalized), where speech is the primary means of communication. There are still others who use Total Communication, which combines both signing and speaking. Lower case “deaf” has been used in citations, abstracts and descriptions unless otherwise indicated; however, this does not necessarily reflect whether or not a person, program or situation is identified with Deaf culture. 

Bolander, A. M., & Renning, A. N. (1995). I was #87: A deaf woman's ordeal of misdiagnosing, institutionalization, and abuse. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.

“I was six years old, alone, and terrified, and no one knew that I was deaf." So began Bolander's five-year ordeal at an institution for retarded and unwanted children where she was known by a number instead of her name. Her stunning story will inspire all who have endured any kind of hardship while trying to reclaim their lives. 

Borum, V. (2006). Reading and writing womanist poetic prose: African American mothers with deaf daughters. Qualitative Inquiry, 12(2), 340-352.

Poetic prose--a creative, novel, qualitative technique developed by the author--is used to present in a multivocal, interactive, and interwoven style the findings of in-depth, thematic interviews with 12 African American mothers with deaf daughters. This style of interweaving the voices of participants in a creative prose is indicative of African American cultural and oral tradition. It permits and deepens the readers ability to emotionally and spiritually connect with experiences and emotions of African American mothers with deaf daughters. Womanism/Black feminism offers a powerful conceptual framework for organizing and evoking these experiences of women as mothers and girls as daughters. 

Breindel, T. J. (2000). Know that: Quotes from deaf women for a positive life. San Diego, CA: Dawn Sign Press.

This treasury of quotes from deaf women about life, love, and overcoming multifaceted challenges provides a resource for those seeking inspiration and understanding. Compiled from contributions from women of all walks of life--young and old, single and married, straight and lesbian, soccer moms and single mothers, women of color--this collection recognizes the gender-specific barriers that women confront daily and offers gender-specific strengths for overcoming them. Also a beginning point of unity for deaf women everywhere, these bits of wisdom address the need to pull together, share the vision and resources needed for empowerment, embrace diversity, and contribute to life. 

Brueggemann, B. J., & Burch, S. (Eds.). (2006). Women and deafness: Double visions. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.

This new collection bridges two dynamic academic fields: Women’s Studies and Deaf Studies. The 14 contributors to this interdisciplinary volume apply research and methodological approaches from sociology, ethnography, literary/film studies, history, rhetoric, education, and public health to open heretofore unexplored territory.

Part One: In and Out of the Community addresses female dynamics within deaf schools; Helen Keller’s identity as a deaf woman; deaf women’s role in Deaf organizations; and whether or not the inequity in education and employment opportunities for deaf women is bias against gender or disability. Part Two: (Women’s) Authority and Shaping Deafness explores the life of 19th-century teacher Marcelina Ruis Y Fernandez; the influence of single, hearing female instructors in deaf education; the extent of women’s authority over oralist educational dictates during the 1900s; and a deaf daughter’s relationship with her hearing mother in the late 20th century. Part Three: Reading Deaf Women considers two deaf sisters’ exceptional creative freedom from 1885 to 1920; the depictions of deaf or mute women in two popular films; a Deaf woman’s account of blending the public-private, deaf-hearing, and religious-secular worlds; how five Deaf female ASL teachers define “gender,” “feminism,” “sex,” and “patriarchy” in ASL and English; and 20th-century American Deaf beauty pageants that emphasize physicality while denying Deaf identity, yet also challenge mainstream notions of “the perfect body.” 

Campbell, H., Robinson, J., & Stratiy, A. (2002). Deaf women of Canada: A proud history and exciting future. Edmonton, Alberta: Duval House Publishing.

A collective history of Deaf women and their contributions to their various communities, Deaf Women of Canada recounts their anecdotes, stories and histories to help us understand their experiences. Information about the daily lives and struggles of Deaf women is not easy to come by, mainly because, until recent decades, women were not considered makers of history. Be inspired and sustained by the women whose remarkable accomplishments are traced in this book—heroines to call our own. 

Compton, M. V. (1997). Constructions of educational meaning in the narratives of four Deaf women teachers. American Annals of the Deaf, 142(5), 356-362.

Deaf teachers bring unique perspectives to the teaching of deaf and hard of hearing students, yet their "voices" have been recognized in neither sociological, psychological, nor philosophical accounts of education and deafness. In the present ethnographic study, narrative analysis is used to frame a description of how four deaf women make sense of their lives as teachers as they disclose their beliefs concerning teaching, their deafness, and their connection with the Deaf community. 

Corbett, C. A. (2003, June). Special issues in psychotherapy with minority Deaf women. In M. E. Banks, & E. Kaschak (Eds.), Women with visible and invisible disabilities: multiple intersections, multiple issues, multiple therapies, Part II [Special issue]. Women & Therapy, 26(3/4), 311-329.

Minority Deaf women have been traditionally underserved by mental health professionals, and specifically, therapists are unaware of issues unique to this population. It would be highly unlikely for a minority Deaf woman to have a therapist who matches her in racial background, hearing status, and communication mode. Therefore, the therapy process will be completely cross-cultural. Therapists who provide psychotherapy services to minority Deaf women need to be aware that their clients are members of a community where deafness is a culture and not a disability. Minority Deaf women are also likely to report feeling forced to choose between competing identities in order to get important needs met. In the following article, case examples are provided which illustrate some of the major issues that are likely to arise in therapy with minority Deaf women. These issues include: access to important information; communication, support and level of involvement with biological families; competing cultural demands; health concerns; and coping with chronic mental illness. 

Cross, P., & Anello, B. (2003, March). Disclosure of records workshop for women with disAbilities and Deaf women. North Bay, Ontario: DAWN Ontario & Ontario Women's Justice Network (OWJN). Retrieved March 14, 2005 from

This is an online version of a Canadian workshop designed to assist women with disAbilities and Deaf women make informed decisions regarding their therapeutic, medical and personal records. It focuses on how these records might be used in a variety of legal proceedings in which women who have experienced violence might become involved. 

Cyrus, B. (2007, Winter). ‘‘All Eyes.’’ In B. J. Brueggeman (Ed.), Deaf Lives Leading Deaf Lives [Special issue]. Sign Language Studies, 7(2), 220-224.

“In Deaf Women’s Lives: Three Self-Portraits, Bainy Cyrus, one of three coauthors, tells about her life growing up in both the deaf and the hearing world. She attended Clarke School for the Deaf in Northampton, Massachusetts, where she struggled with her delayed language development. Using five chronological readings, Bainy describes how a typical deaf child coped with delayed English language in the 1960s and 1970s” (p. 220). 

Davis, Z. I. (1999). Compensation [Film]. New York: Women Make Movies.

Compensation, the first feature by award-winning filmmaker Zeinabu irene Davis (Cycles and A Powerful Thang), presents two unique African-American love stories between a deaf woman and a hearing man. Inspired by a poem written by Paul Laurence Dunbar, this moving narrative shares their struggle to overcome racism, disability and discrimination. An important film on African-American deaf culture, Davis innovatively incorporates silent film techniques (such as title cards and vintage photos) to make the piece accessible to hearing and deaf viewers alike, and to share the vast possibilities of language and communication. 

Doe, T. (1996, Summer). The social construction of Deaf women. In Perspectives on Education by Women with Disabilities [Special issue], WOMEN'S EDUCATION DES FEMMES, 12(2), 45-48. Retrieved March 14, 2005 from

"In almost all English literature the'Deaf' are referred to without gender. In text books and media, Deaf people are referred to as 'the Deaf,' the Deaf Community, members of Deaf culture, Deaf students, Deaf adults, children with hearing impairments, clients who are deaf, Deaf consumers, Deaf trainees, Deaf employees or Deaf people. While several of these terms suggest a broader identity than just a person who cannot hear, none of them give any indication of gender. Thus the Deaf child by default becomes either a boy without hearing or a neutered Deaf child, but rarely a girl who is deaf." 

Freeberg, E. (2002). The education of Laura Bridgman: First deaf and blind person to learn language. Boston: Harvard University Press.

In the mid-nineteenth century, Laura Bridgman, a young child from New Hampshire, became one of the most famous women in the world. Philosophers, theologians, and educators hailed her as a miracle, and a vast public followed the intimate details of her life with rapt attention. This girl, all but forgotten today, was the first deaf and blind person ever to learn language.

Laura's dark and silent life was transformed when she became the star pupil of the educational crusader Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe. Against the backdrop of an antebellum Boston seething with debates about human nature, programs of moral and educational reform, and battles between conservative and liberal Christians, Freeberg tells this extraordinary tale of mentor and student, scientist and experiment.

Under Howe's constant tutelage, Laura voraciously absorbed the world around her, learning to communicate through finger language, as well as to write with confidence. Her remarkable breakthroughs vindicated Howe's faith in the power of education to overcome the most terrible of disabilities. In Howe's hands, Laura's education became an experiment that he hoped would prove his own controversial ideas about the body, mind, and soul.

Poignant and hopeful, The Education of Laura Bridgman is both a success story of how a sightless and soundless girl gained contact with an ever-widening world, and also a cautionary tale about the way moral crusades and scientific progress can compromise each other. Anticipating the life of Helen Keller a half-century later, Laura's is a pioneering story of the journey from isolation to accomplishment, as well as a window onto what it means to be human under the most trying conditions. 

Gitter, E. (2001). The imprisoned guest: Samuel Howe and Laura Bridgman, the original deaf-blind girl. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

In 1837, Samuel Gridley Howe, director of Boston's Perkins Institution for the Blind, heard about a bright, deaf-blind seven-year-old, the daughter of New Hampshire farmers. At once he resolved to rescue her from the "darkness and silence of the tomb." And indeed, thanks to Howe and an extraordinary group of female teachers, Laura Bridgman learned to finger spell, to read raised letters, and to write legibly and even eloquently.

Philosophers, poets, educators, theologians, and early psychologists hailed Laura as a moral inspiration and a living laboratory for the most controversial ideas of the day. She quickly became a major tourist attraction, and many influential writers and reformers visited her or wrote about her. But as the Civil War loomed and her girlish appeal faded, the public began to lose interest. By the time Laura died in 1889, she had been wholly eclipsed by the prettier, more ingratiating Helen Keller.

The Imprisoned Guest retrieves Laura Bridgman's forgotten life, placing it in the context of nineteenth-century American social, intellectual, and cultural history. Her troubling, tumultuous relationship with Howe, who rode Laura's achievements to his own fame but could not cope with the intense, demanding adult she became, sheds light on the contradictory attitudes of a "progressive" era in which we can find some precursors of our own. 

Heppner, C. M. (1992). Seeds of disquiet: One deaf woman's experience. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.

In her autobiography Seeds of Disquiet, Cheryl Heppner writes of experiencing severe hearing loss twice. Spinal meningitis caused a profound loss of hearing when she was six, and for the next 18 years she worked hard to live the life of a “normal” hearing person. Through exhaustive work in speech therapy and speechreading, she excelled in school and college, performing Herculean feats without the assistance of trained interpreters or notetakers.

Then, when she was 25, two strokes left her completely deaf. For the next 20 years she worked to recreate her life through sign language and the Deaf community. The process stunned her by revealing how much she had missed before. Initially embittered, Cheryl Heppner later went on to use her astonishing energy as an advocate for deaf and hard of hearing people.

Seeds of Disquiet celebrates her accomplishments, the most significant of which, perhaps, was her reconciliation with her loved ones from her former life with her new outlook. 

Holcombe, M. (1989). Deaf women: A parade through the decades. San Diego, CA: Dawn Sign Press.

Has very brief information on hundreds of deaf women, grouped into chapters by time period or by field. 

Hole, R. D. (2004). Narratives of identity: A poststructural analysis of three Deaf women's life stories. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, The University of British Columbia.

This study explored the influence of hearing loss on identity. Phrased in constructionist terms, the research questions guiding this study were how do culturally Deaf women perceive the influence of hearing loss as they construct their identities? And how do they incorporate, resist, and/or reject various cultural discourses as they go about the creative act of constructing their identities? The participants were three adult women with prelingual hearing losses. All three participants were raised in hearing-oriented environments where auditory/oral communication was used and as adults identified as culturally Deaf. A collaborative narrative method was used and in-depth interviews that elicited life stories were conducted with the participants. Sign language was used during the interviews. The interviews were videotaped, then interpreted to spoken English by the researcher, and then subsequently transcribed. The research interviews provided rich, descriptive data that were used to create a narrative summary of each participant's life story. The researcher collaborated with each participant around the representation of her life story in narrative form. The narrative summaries illustrate the complex, textured, and multilayered ways in which each of the participants constructed identity in their life stories, where identities competed, co-existed, and overlapped. In addition, drawing on poststructural ideas the researcher analyzed four cultural discourses at work in the participants' narratives: discourses of normalcy, discourses of difference, discourses of passing, and Deaf cultural discourses. It was found that a binary relationship existed between discourses of normalcy and discourses of difference leading to the construction of identities based on opposites. These identities were positioned in a binary relationship where one side of the binary was privileged and the opposite was "othered," e.g., hearing/deaf, and Deaf/deaf. However, the poststructural narrative analysis demonstrated that these categories were not fixed, but rather, that hearing status was a complex, unstable identity category, reflecting shifting identities and positionalities. The findings are discussed in relation to empirical literature on deafness and identity. The study concludes with suggestions for professionals, with a discussion of methodological implications, and with a discussion of future research possibilities. 

Holte, M. C., & Dinis, M. C. (2001, October). Self-esteem enhancement in Deaf and hearing women: Success stories. American Annals of the Deaf, 146(4), 348-354.

The present study is a retrospective exploration of the process of self-esteem enhancement in 23 women, 9 culturally Deaf and 14 hearing, for purposes of both individual and group comparisons. A qualitative design was used to examine material from in-depth interviews to generate themes relating to the ways these women describe the concept of their self-esteem and how they have enhanced their own self-esteem. Both groups of women described self-esteem in conceptually equivalent terms, with most in each group identifying themselves as "capable." A distinction was found in the specific words used by each of the two groups. Of the top eight rank-ordered themes, five were similar in importance for both groups. Deaf women were more likely to report education as a factor in self-esteem enhancement, and to cite language and communication as a critical component in self-esteem enhancement. No hearing women reported on those factors. Implications for social work with culturally Deaf women, self-esteem work with women, and future research are discussed. 

Iqbal, S. (2004). Pregnancy and birth: A guide for deaf women. Coleford, Glos., UK: Forest Books.

Written for deaf mothers and mothers-to-be in the UK, this guide provides clear information on the key things you need to know about when you're pregnant, including: Planning a baby; antenatal and postnatal care; labour and birth and your baby's first few days. It provides clear explanations for all medical words, and plenty of illustrations and photos. Stories from deaf mothers, including hints & tips and up-to-date information on your rights under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. 

Katz, E., Cheyney, C., Cyrus, B., & Parsons, F. M. (2005, March). Deaf women's lives: Three self-portraits [Deaf Lives Series Vol. 3]. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.

Three deaf women with widely varying stories share their experiences in this unique collection, revealing the vast differences in the circumstances of their lives, but also striking similarities. In Bainy Cyrus’s All Eyes, she vividly describes her life as a young child who was taught using the oral method at the Clarke School for the Deaf in Northampton, MA. Her account of the methods used (for example, repeating the same word over and over again, as many as 35 times), animates the extraordinary amount of work performed by deaf children to learn to read and speak. Cyrus also relates the importance of her lifelong friendships with two girls she met at Clarke, and how the different paths that they took influenced her as an adult.

Eileen Katz’s story, as told to Celeste Cheyney, offers a glimpse into a deaf girl’s life a generation before Cyrus. In Making Sense of It All: The Battle of Britain Through a Jewish Deaf Girl’s Eyes, Katz juxtaposes the gradual learning of the words who, what, where, and why with the confusing events of 1938 to 1941. As she and her fellow students grasped the meanings of these questions, they also realized the threat from the Nazi air attacks upon England. Katz also understood the compound jeopardy that she and her classmates faced by being both deaf and Jewish.

In contrast to the predominantly oral orientation of Cyrus and Katz, Frances M. Parsons writes of a year-long journey overseas in 1976 to lecture about Total Communication. Parsons traveled to Iran, India, Ceylon, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taipei, the Philippines, Australia, and seven countries in Africa to teach administrators, teachers, and deaf students to communicate using sign, speechreading, writing, and any other means available. Her harrowing and fascinating anecdotes detail visits to ministries of education, schools, hospitals, clinics, palaces, hovels for the poorest of the poor, and all kinds of residential homes and apartments. Taken together, her travels testify to the aptness of her title I Dared!

The combined effect of these three Deaf women’s stories, despite the variation in their experiences, reveals the common thread that weaves through the lives of all deaf individuals. 

Kelly, A. B. (2001, April). How Deaf women construct teaching, language, culture, and gender: An ethnographic study of ASL teachers. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Maryland, College Park, MD.

This ethnographic dissertation studies five Deaf women who teach American Sign Language (ASL), exploring the intersections of teaching, language and culture, and gender as perceived by these women. It examines how Deaf women bridge dominant mainstream culture and Deaf culture through teaching ASL and Deaf Culture. It also inquires how these women construct language, culture, and gender as ASL teachers and through their personal lives. These issues were explored through three videotaped interviews with each informant, capped by two rounds of videotaped participant-observations in the women's ASL classes. This approach produced insights into their teaching practices, attitudes and beliefs leading up to their constructions about teaching, language, culture, and gender. Analysis of the materials collected demonstrates that these five women identify themselves as primarily Deaf with concern about gender as secondary. Although they expressed some resistance towards the dominant mainstream American culture, they clearly value their careers as teachers of ASL and Deaf Culture to mostly hearing learners, bridging the two worlds. This dissertation shows how their unique experience as Deaf individuals reflect their lives as mothers, daughters, students, and partners in social relationships, and how their roles are similar and dissimilar. Their lived experiences as Deaf women affect how they teach, how they perceive hearing people, and how they understand language, culture, and gender. 

Laborit, E. (1998). The cry of the gull. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.

Words have struck me as odd ever since my childhood. The simplest of concepts were even more mysterious. Yesterday, tomorrow, today. My mind worked in the present. What did past and future mean? I took a giant leap forward when, with the help of sign language, I understood that yesterday was behind me and tomorrow was in front of me. That was huge progress. Later, I realized that other words referred to people. Emmanuelle was me. Papa was him. Mama was her. Marie was my sister. I was Emmanuelle, an individual. I had a name, therefore I existed.

Emmanuelle Laborit begins her autobiography The Cry of the Gull with this simple explanation of the difference sign language made in her life. She learned this at the age of seven, and the second important discovery for this young French girl came soon after, when she realized that being deaf could be a positive part of her identity.

As an adolescent, her experiences paralleled those of many hearing youths growing into adults. She went through the frustration and alienation of most teenagers, but hers came from an inability to reconcile the hearing world and her speech-oriented school with her sensibilities as a young deaf woman. After a lengthy period of trouble in class and at home, she determined to finish school and fight for the rights of other deaf French people. She also took up acting, leading to her ultimate triumph as Sarah in the French production of Children of a Lesser God. She was the first deaf French actor to win the Moliere Award in the category of best new talent. Her book The Cry of the Gull is both a revealing and encouraging story for young people everywhere. 

Leigh, I. W., Brice, P. J., & Meadow-Orlans, K. (2004). Attachment in deaf mothers and their children. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 9(2), 176-188.

In attachment research, there has been a growing interest in how adults conceptualize their relationships with their own parents as well as in the transmission of attachment status from parent to child and the variables that influence that transmission. The primary goal of the present study was to examine the transmission of attachment from deaf mother to child. Adult Attachment Interviews were collected on 32 deaf women and Strange Situation Procedure data were obtained from their children. While the distribution of deaf mother attachment classifications was similar to that found with hearing samples, the concordance between mother and child in terms of attachment status was lower than in hearing samples. Having a deaf parent did not affect a deaf adult's attachment status. Post hoc analyses suggested a trend towards a dismissing stance in attachment relationships. Results are discussed in terms of variables affecting attachment status as well as the transmission of attachment. 

Monaghan, L. F. (1997). Embodying friendship: Social structure, the use of space and language use in a New Zealand deaf women's group. Issues in Applied Linguistics, 8(2), 179-202.

Seating patterns over a 2-year period of the Mother's Club of Auckland, New Zealand, an informal deaf women's group, are examined to determine the relationship between the use of space & use of sign language or lip-speaking. The group is intermediate with respect to situation formality; in deaf settings, space constraints revolve around the ability to see each other, leading to patterns (F-formations) quite different from those of hearing people. The data, based on seating information of 57 club meetings (1990-1992) & a videotape of one meeting, were compared to reanalyze data of R. E. Johnson & C. Erting's (1989) study of a US preschool deaf children's classroom. Results indicated that in both the Mother's Club & preschool, seating emphasis was on the group rather than on one-on-one interactions & that sign language is used for group interaction. In New Zealand, the emphasis on group interaction was associated with the Maori & general Polynesian emphasis on peer group interactions, whereas in the US, deaf parental influence was the most important influence. It was also observed that spoken English was used in place of sign fluency. 

My body, my responsibility: A health education video for deaf women [Video]. (n.d.). Rochester: Deaf Wellness Center, University of Rochester Medical Center.

My Body, My Responsibility: A Health Education Video for Deaf Women is a 62-minute film. The film features deaf actresses in most roles (and a deaf ob-gyn surgeon!) and dialogue in American Sign Language throughout. It also has a spoken English voice-over and open captions (subtitles), so the film is accessible to hearing and hard-of-hearing people as well as sign language users. It covers topics including puberty, menstruation and related hygiene, pregnancy and labor, pregnancy prevention, birth control methods, and sexually transmitted diseases including HIV and how to be tested for HIV. This video fills a major gap in health education materials for deaf women and/or families with deaf women. It would be useful in deaf education settings, other deaf service settings, healthcare settings that serve deaf women, in families (where deaf and hearing members could watch/discuss it together), and in interpreter training programs. 

Najarian, C. G. (2004). 'Between worlds': How college educated deaf women negotiate education, mothering, and work. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY.

This qualitative study investigates the everyday lives of college educated deaf women in their family, educational, mothering and activism, and paid work experiences. The study is based on life history research with ten deaf women in two different cities in the northeast. The data reveal the seemingly "invisible" and often visible work involved as these women negotiate places for themselves and resist various obstacles in their paid and unpaid work lives. The women develop strategies to negotiate being part of the deaf world, hearing world, or somewhere, as they describe, "in between." Despite being educated orally and usually forbidden to learn sign language in their early years, the women are often tracked into working in deaf work environments, specifically into teaching professions. As part of their mothering and activist work, the women also make political decisions about their identities as well as those of their children when they make decisions about how to communicate in their families. The study also shows how institutions such as schools, families, and workplaces shape the women's work experiences and their identities. By uncovering the life experiences of these deaf women, these findings have implications for our education programs and hiring procedures. 

Najarian, C. G. (2006). "Between worlds": Deaf women, work, and intersections of gender and ability [New Approaches in Sociology]. New York: Routledge.

The purpose of this book is to illustrate the struggles of Deaf women as they negotiate their family, educational, and work lives. This study demonstrates how these women resist and overcome the various obstacles that are put before them as well as how they work to negotiate their identities as Deaf women in the Deaf community, hearing world, and the places "in between." The scope of the book traces these women's lives in these three major sectors of their lives and provides a discussion of the implications for other linguistic minorities. 

Najarian, C. G. (2008, March). Deaf women: educational experiences and self-identity. Disability & Society, 23(2), 117-128.

Using life history interviews with 10 college educated Deaf women this paper investigates connections between early education and college experience and how they identified as Deaf. The women developed strategies as they managed their impressions while employing Goffman's practices of loyalty, discipline and circumspection. Acknowledging deafness and their own decisions about education affected their identities. The women experienced a cultural shift after attending a college for the deaf or after their exposure to the Deaf community and learning American Sign Language. The women developed strategies of becoming 'lifetime educators' and 'self-advocates'. Their experiences show the role of language in the identity making process and how the women navigated this in their schools. 

Oliva, G. A. (2004). Alone in the mainstream: A deaf woman remembers public school [Deaf Lives Vol. 1]. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.

When Gina Oliva first went to school in 1955, she didn’t know that she was “different.” If the kindergarten teacher played a tune on the piano to signal the next exercise, Oliva didn’t react because she couldn’t hear the music. So began her journey as a “solitary,” her term for being the only deaf child in the entire school. Gina felt alone because she couldn’t communicate easily with her classmates, but also because none of them had a hearing loss like hers. It wasn’t until years later at Gallaudet University that she discovered that she wasn’t alone and that her experience was common among mainstreamed deaf students. Alone in the Mainstream recounts Oliva’s story, as well as those of many other solitaries.

In writing this important book, Oliva combined her personal experiences with responses from the Solitary Mainstream Project, a survey that she conducted of deaf and hard of hearing adults who attended public school. Oliva matched her findings with current research on deaf students in public schools and confirmed that hearing teachers are ill-prepared to teach deaf pupils, they don’t know much about hearing loss, and they frequently underestimate deaf children. The collected memories in Alone in the Mainstream adds emotional weight to the conviction that students need to be able to communicate freely, and they also need peers to know they are not alone.
Oliva, G. A. (2007, Winter). A selection from Alone in the mainstream: A deaf woman remembers public school. In B. J. Brueggeman (Ed.), Deaf Lives Leading Deaf Lives [Special issue]. Sign Language Studies, 7(2), 212-219.

“In spite of its evolution on the road to publication, my book, Alone in the Mainstream: A Deaf Woman Remembers Public School, remained a crack dweller. It is a story not just about my life but also about the lives of sixty other people who themselves were the only deaf or hard of hearing child in their K–12 schools. My book also includes a brief introduction to Deaf education and Deaf people—I considered my audience to be parents, teachers, and counselors, who may not have a clue about these subjects. The audience, in my mind, would include my own brothers and sisters. I wanted to write in a language that would enable them to easily finish my book in a day or two, if they were to pick it up. So I wanted the average reader—mainstream Americans—to be able to really get a sense of what I was trying to say. Finally, I wanted to give a variety of voices to a common experience that many people shared: We thought we were `alone in the mainstream,’ but truthfully there were and still are many of us. For this article I will share an excerpt that refers to my relationship with two very special young women who are now both students at Gallaudet University” (p. 212). 

Plann, S. (2007, Winter). Deaf lives: Nineteenth-century Spanish deaf girls and women. In B. J. Brueggeman (Ed.), Deaf Lives Leading Deaf Lives [Special issue]. Sign Language Studies, 7(2), 167-176.

“This article is about the lives of nineteenth-century Spanish deaf girls and women. The research I present here is contained in a larger work, a book titled Portraits from the Spanish National Deaf-mute School, to be published by Gallaudet University Press. These ‘‘portraits’’ are in fact biographical essays on nineteenth century deaf people and their educators, all of them connected in one way or another to the Spanish National Deaf School in Madrid” (p. 167). 

Reisler, J. (Ed.). (2002). Voices of the oral deaf: Fourteen role models speak out. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

This work presents interviews with fourteen oral deaf role models from diverse backgrounds and professions, among them several deaf women. These women and others tell of their experiences and stories, discuss what helped and what hindered them, and offer advice to parents of deaf children. 

RIT Libraries. (2003). Deaf women bibliography. Rochester, NY: Rochester Institute of Technology. Retrieved March 14, 2005 from

This online bibliography was compiled by the RIT Libraries, referring to their collections. It is an extensive bibliography including many web links on deaf women. 

Savulescu, J. (2002, October). Deaf lesbians, ‘designer disability,’ and the future of medicine. British Medical Journal, 324(7367), 771-773.

A deaf lesbian couple in the United States have deliberately created a deaf child. Sharon Duchesneau and Candy McCullough used their own sperm donor, a deaf friend with five generations of deafness in his family. Like others in the deaf community, Duchesneau and McCullough don't see deafness as a disability. They see being deaf as defining their cultural identity and see signing as a sophisticated, unique form of communication 

Sieratski, J. S., & Woll, B. (2004). The impact of maternal deafness on cradling laterality with deaf and hearing infants. The Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 9(4), 387-394.

A recent article in the Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education (Leigh, Brice, & Meadow-Orlans, 2004) explored attachment between deaf mothers and their 18-month-old children and reported relationship patterns similar to those for hearing dyads. The study reported here explores a marker of early mother-child relationships: cradling laterality. Results indicated that, overall, the cradling bias of deaf mothers is similar to that of hearing mothers, but that there are significant differences among deaf mothers related to the hearing status of their own parents and, in a complex way, to the hearing status of their children. Deaf mothers of deaf parents showed a strong leftward cradling bias with both hearing and deaf children, whereas deaf mothers of hearing parents showed a leftward cradling bias with hearing children and a rightward cradling bias with deaf children. Possible explanations for these patterns of behavior are discussed. 

Steinberg, A. G., Wiggins, E. A., Barmada, C. H., & Sullivan, V. J. (2002, October). Deaf women: Experiences and perceptions of healthcare system access. Journal of Women’s Health and Gender-Based Medicine, 11(8), 729-741.

Background: The authors investigated the knowledge, attitudes, and healthcare experiences of Deaf women.

Methods: Interviews with 45 deaf women who participated in focus groups in American Sign Language were translated, transcribed, and analyzed. Deaf women's understanding of women's health issues, knowledge of health vocabulary in both English and American Sign Language, common health concerns among Deaf women, and issues of access to information, including pathways and barriers, were examined. As a qualitative study, the results of this investigation are limited and should be viewed as exploratory.

Results: A lack of health knowledge was evident, including little understanding of the meaning or value of cancer screening, mammography, or Pap smears; purposes of prescribed medications, such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT); or necessity for other medical or surgical interventions. Negative experiences and avoidance or nonuse of health services were reported, largely due to the lack of a common language with healthcare providers. Insensitive behaviors were also described. Positive experiences and increased access to health information were reported with practitioners who used qualified interpreters. Providers who demonstrated minimal signing skills, a willingness to use paper and pen, and sensitivity to improving communication were appreciated.

Conclusions: Deaf women have unique cultural and linguistic issues that affect healthcare experiences. Improved access to health information may be achieved with specialized resource materials, improved prevention and targeted intervention strategies, and self-advocacy skills development. Healthcare providers must be trained to become more effective communicators with Deaf patients and to use qualified interpreters to assure access to healthcare for Deaf women. 

Stone, L. (n.d.). Anywhere, to anyone: Domestic violence in the Deaf community [Video]. Seattle: Abused Deaf Women's Advocacy Services.

People sometimes hurt other people and try to control them. This is an ugly reality. Perhaps it is ugliest when abusive behavior occurs at home, or within close relationships. When a husband, father, other relative, or a boyfriend attacks someone emotionally, physically or sexually, the victim may feel alone and helpless. This video set--Anywhere, To Anyone, produced by Abused Deaf Women's Advocacy Services--is designed to lead Deaf victims of domestic violence to help and understanding.

The video program is presented fully in American Sign Language. All of the actors and the narrator use sign to communicate. The acting is realistic and the signing is clear. The video opens with a seemingly peaceful gathering of Deaf and hearing friends. Each scene following this shows what is under the surface of these painted smiles...the pain of domestic violence.

This video comes with a facilitator's guide as well as informational pamphlets for distribution to audiences. 

Tucker, B. P. (1995). The feel of silence [Health, Society, and Policy Series]. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

"I spin a roll of toilet paper—hard, and the paper unwinds to the floor. Does it make a noise as it unfurls? As it hits the floor? When ice cream melts and drips on my sleeve does it make a noise? Or will it only make a noise if it drips onto a hard surface, like the ground, rather than on my soft sleeve? ...They tell me that escaping air makes a sound. How? When?"

With these seemingly simple questions, Bonnie Poitras Tucker introduces us to "the feel of silence." Tucker, profoundly deaf since infancy, became an expert lipreader who never learned sign language and did not meet another deaf person until her mid-thirties. Her compelling story propels the reader through an odyssey of motions—the tension inherent in a battle against the odds.

This intimate memoir is interlaced with moving examples of the ironies and trials of accommodating a hearing world. After spending 17 years as a full-time wife and mother, Tucker embarked on a "second life," divorced, with several children to support. Alternately angry and sad, funny and introspective, Tucker explains how she sometimes "bluffed" instead of announcing her deafness.

Unable to read lips in the dark, candle-lit restaurants, or the turn of dusk left Tucker without a means of communication, virtually paralyzed. Daily frustration resulted from the practicalities of responding to a crying child, airplane announcements, repairmen knocking at the door, a ringing telephone, and following the rapid-fire debates that take place in the classroom and the courtroom.

Opposed to the "Deaf is Dandy" movement, Tucker successfully strategized her way through college, dating, motherhood, and law school, and went on to become a corporate litigator, a law professor, and an expert in several areas of the law, including disability rights.

Excerpts from Chapters 1 and 2 can be found at the Temple University website:  

Ubido, J., Huntington, J., & Warburton, D. (2002). Inequalities in access to healthcare faced by women who are deaf. Health and Social Care in the Community, 10(4), 247-253.

The Cheshire Deaf Women's Health Project undertook a research study to assess the access to healthcare of women who are deaf in Cheshire, UK. Group discussions took place with 13 women who were hard of hearing and 14 women who were Deaf Sign Language users. Questionnaires were distributed to a stratified random sample of 103 women taken from the social services register, 38 of which were returned. In order to reach more women whose first language was British Sign Language, 129 questionnaires were distributed to the leaders of various clubs and organizations for people who are deaf, and 100 of these were returned. The data revealed inequities in access to healthcare. For example, women who are deaf face a lack of awareness by health staff of how to communicate with them. The survey confirmed that these problems are of major importance to the majority of women who are deaf. For example, fewer than one in 10 deaf women said that they usually fully understand what the doctor says to them when they visit the doctor on their own. There are many other difficulties faced by women who are deaf, leading to inequalities when they are compared with hearing people. Almost half the respondents said that they would be more likely to use health services if help and/or services for deaf women were available. The introduction of various relatively simple measures would greatly help to reduce the inequalities of access to healthcare faced by deaf women. Under the terms of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, such action is essential if providers are to avoid facing possible legal action. 

Van Drenth, A. (2003, December). "Tender sympathy and scrupulous fidelity": Gender and professionalism in the history of deaf education in the United States. International Journal of Disability, Development and Education, 50(4), 367-383.

This article examines the gendered professionalism that developed in the education of deaf persons in the second half of the 19th Century in the United States. It shows how the rise of professionalism involved the social construction of gender. During the 19th Century many women entered the teaching profession and many taught deaf persons. Employing them was considered attractive, not only because of the low wages that the women were paid, but also because of the "tender sympathy and scrupulous fidelity" that these women teachers showed in their professional practice. The introduction of the oral method in the education of deaf individuals favoured women teachers who were valued for their capacities to relate to pupils and whose labour was cheap compared to men. In due course women teachers succeeded in developing specific expertise and thereby influenced the professional community. Eventually their gendered professionalism became crucial in settling the schism between manualism and oralism, a schism that marked the history of the education of deaf individuals at the turn of the 19th Century in the United States. 

Wilkins, D. M. (1997). Herstories: A preliminary look at deaf women in higher education. American Annals of the Deaf, 142(2), 93-06.

This study describes the postsecondary educational experiences and perceptions of deaf women college students. Deaf women were interviewed using semistructured questions adapted from Gilligan, Lyons, and Hanmer (1990). Findings indicated that these deaf women perceived their college environment as generally positive, though they also perceived instances of unequal treatment. 

Wright, M. H. (1999). Sounds like home: Growing up black and deaf in the south. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.

Mary Herring Wright’s story adds an important dimension to the current literature in that it is a story by and about an African American deaf child. Her story is unique and historically significant because it provides valuable descriptive information about the faculty and staff of the North Carolina school for Black deaf and blind students at that time from the perspective of a student as well as a student teacher. In addition, this engrossing narrative contains details about the curriculum, which included a week-long Black History celebration where students learned about important Blacks such as Madame Walker, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and George Washington Carver. It also describes the physical facilities as well as the changes in those facilities over the years. In addition, the story occurs over a period of time that covers two major events in American history, the Depression and World War II.

Wright’s account is one of enduring faith, perseverance, and optimism. Her keen observations will serve as a source of inspiration for others who are challenged in their own ways by life’s obstacles. 

Wright, M. H. (2005, March). Far from home: Memories of World War II and afterward. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.

“She’s got no more business there than a pig has with a Bible.” That’s what her father said when Mary Herring announced that she would be moving to Washington, DC, in late 1942. Recently graduated from the North Carolina School for Black Deaf and Blind Students, Mary had been invited to the nation’s capital by a cousin to see a specialist about her hearing loss. Though nothing could be done about her deafness, Mary quickly proved her father wrong by passing the civil service examination with high marks. Far From Home: Memories of World War II and Afterward, the second installment of her autobiography, describes her life from her move to Washington to the present.

Mary soon became a valued employee for the Navy, maintaining rosters for the many servicemen in war theaters worldwide. Her remarkable gift for detail depicts Washington in meticulous layers, a sleepy Southern town force-grown into a dynamic geopolitical hub. Life as a young woman amid the capital’s Black middle class could be warm and fun, filled with visits from family and friends, and trips home to Iron Mine for tearful, joyous reunions. But the reality of the times never far off. On many an idyllic afternoon, she and her friends found somber peace in Arlington Cemetery, next to the grave of the sole Unknown Soldier at that time. During an evening spent at the U.S.O., one hearing woman asked how people like her could dance, and Mary answered, “With our feet.” She became a pen pal to several young servicemen, but did not want to know why some of them suddenly stopped writing.

Despite the close friends and good job that she had in Washington, the emotional toll caused Mary to return to her family home in Iron Mine, NC. There, she rejoined her family and resumed her country life. She married and raised four daughters, and recounts the joys and sorrows she experienced through the years, particularly the loss of her parents. Her blend of the gradual transformation of Southern rural life with momentous events such as Hurricane Hazel creates an extraordinary narrative history. The constant in Far from Home remains the steady confidence that Mary Herring Wright has in herself, making her new memoir a perfect companion to her first.