2 Martha’s VineyardNo one is sure exactly when signed languages were first used in the United States, but we can be sure is before hearing people began to take an interest in their language or education. Martha’s Vineyard was a unique place where Deaf people used a natural sign language. Martha’s Vineyard is a small island off of Massachusetts.
3 Martha’s VineyardFrom 1690 to the mid twentieth century, a high rate of genetic deafness appeared in the population.In the rest of the US, the rate of deafness was approximately 1 out of every 5,700 people, but on Martha’s Vineyard, the rate was 1 out of 25, and in one neighborhood,1 out of 4.
4 Martha’s VineyardDue to the high incidence of Deafness, most of the hearing population was biligual, and Deafness was not viewed as a handicap. The Vineyard sign language was an important phenomenon in Deaf history.
5 GallaudetIn 1814, Thomas Hopkin’s Gallaudet was working as a minister when he went home and met a 9 year girl named Alice Cogswell who was Deaf.Her father, a doctor, explained to TH Gallaudet that the reason she could not communicate or write was because “No one knows how to teach Deaf people ion America.”
6 GallaudetThere were schools in England where students watched their teachers lips, and in France, where students used sign language. Dr. Cogswell and Gallaudet raised money so that Gallaudet could travel to Europe. In 1815, Gallaudet travelled to London and went to the Deaf school run by the Braidwood family.
7 BraidwoodsThey thought that their teaching methods were secret and would only teach Gallaudet if he agreed to two terms:1.Gallaudet had to stay and work there for 3 years2.He would have to keep their secret, even in America, and not tell anyone else how to teach Deaf children.What was Gallaudet’s response: NO!
8 A Stroke of Luck….Thankfully, teachers of the Deaf from France were in town demonstrating their methods. Two of them were Deaf, their names were Jean Massieu and Laurent Clerc. Gallaudet saw first hand that words could be signed as well as spoken or written. After the demonstration, Gallaudet approached the two men about their methods. How did they respond? “Come to our school!” No rules, no secrets, just sharing how to teach Deaf children.
9 FranceGallaudet stayed in France for 2 months, and then Laurent Clerc agreed to travel to the US to help Gallaudet start his school.He could teach Gallaudet sign language and could prove to the American people that deaf people could become well-educated and successful.
10 Deaf EducationIn 1817, in Hartford, Connecticut, the American School for the Deaf (formerly known as The American Asylum for the Education and Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb) was opened, and there were 7 students, including Alice Cogswell.One of the first graduates, Sofia Fowler, married TH Gallaudet. Together they had 8 children.
11 Deaf EducationIn 1864, TH Gallaudet’s youngest son Edward Minor Gallaudet (who was hearing) helped establish the world’s first college for Deaf students and became its first president. It was Gallaudet College (Now Gallaudet University).
12 Modern ASLModern ASL is a language with roots from the Vineyard Sign Language, infused with the French Sign Language brought over by Clerc.When many of the deaf inhabitants of Martha’s Vineyard attended the American School for the Deaf, they brought their own signs which merged with the French Sign Language, as well as the home signs of other students, to create ASL as we know it today.Like all languages, it is alive and continues to evolve.