Alice Cogswell was an icon of a deaf culture known for being the inspiration behind the creation of the first public school for the deaf opened in Hartford, CT on April 15, 1817.
Today, we celebrate her 215th birth anniversary (August 31). Alice died on December 30, 1830, at the age of 25 years old in Hartford, two weeks after her father, Dr.Mason Fitch Cogswell to whom she was close, died at age of 70 years old.
You may have heard stories about how Rev. Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet first met Alice, his travel to Europe bringing later with him Laurent Clerc, a gifted deaf teacher from Paris to America, 1816.
Likely most people who visit, work, and/or study at Gallaudet know of Alice Cogswell. A big bronze statue of her with Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet at near the entrance of Gallaudet University since 1889! It was a gift to Gallaudet from the National Association of the Deaf. The renowned sculptor was Daniel Chester French(hearing). His statue was intended to portray the strong bond between teacher and student that transformed deaf education around the world. And deaf people of the world cherish Sign Languages!
As we celebrate the International Day of Sign Languages on September 23rd,2020, library cardholders may borrow books from their local public library about Alice Cogswell and American deaf history, in person or online. If you do not have your library card yet, please call and sign up for one. Please share this with your family and friends.
Deaf Cultural Trivia: How old was NAD when it presented the statue of AliceCogswell and Thomas H. Gallaudet to Gallaudet in 1889? Nine years. And thanks to NAD’s fundraising committee. At that time the GallaudetUniversity Alumni Association of the Deaf was founded.
How old was NAD when it presented the statue of Abbe de L’Epee to St. Mary School for the Deaf in Buffalo, NY in 1930? 50 years. And thanks to NAD’s fundraising committee Over 3,000 people were presented.
What year did the Columbia Institution for the Deaf change its name to Gallaudet College by an Act of Congress (Public Law 420)?
Answer: June 18, 1954 --- 90 years after the signing of the Congressional charter by US President Abraham Lincoln that authorized and enacted a college for the deaf on April 8, 1864.
Before 1954, the Columbia Institution for the Deaf was comprised of both Gallaudet College and Kendall School for the Deaf. In 1986 Gallaudet College becomes Gallaudet University when President Ronald Reagan signs the Education of the Deaf (Public Law 99-371).
In 1996, Pre-College National Mission Program was formed as an umbrella to cover the University's preschool programs, the Kendall Demonstration Elementary School, the Model Secondary School for the Deaf, other pre-college research and teaching units, and all their associated buildings and other facilities. It is renamed the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center in 2000.
Source: Gallaudet University Spirits Class of 1957 "Chronological List of Dates: Gallaudet University" 2007
The First School for the Deaf: District of Columbia
February 16, 1857 - The founding of the Columbia Institution for the Deaf, Dumb, and the Blind, authorized by an Act of Congress: Founding President: Amos Kendall (hearing)May 30, 1857 – First superintendent of the Institution appointed: Edward Miner Gallaudet (CODA -- hearing Child of Deaf Adult)
June 13, 1857 – Institution opens with 14 children from the D.C, including 5 deaf orphans originally from New York City, a total of nine deaf children and five blind children
July 13, 1857 – First matron of the Institution appointed: Sophia Fowler Gallaudet (deaf)
August 1, 1857 – First instructor appointed for the Institution and later first principal of its Primary Department in 1864: James Denison (deaf)
In 1885 – The Primary Department is formally renamed the Kendall School in honor of Amos Kendall
June 18, 1954 – the Institution is renamed Gallaudet College by an Act of Congress and Kendall School becomes its division.
In 1996, The Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center was formed as an umbrella to cover Gallaudet University's preschool programs, the Kendall Demonstration Elementary School, the Model Secondary School for the Deaf, other pre-college research and teaching units, and all their associated buildings and other facilities.
Abbé Charles Michel de l’Épée
DC resident, Jean Boutcher, a well-known Deaf artist, loves going to the library. One day in 1985, a new book on library display caught her eye -- "When the Mind Hears: A History of the Deaf," by Harlan Lane, published in 1984. For the first time, she said she truly learned about the history of deaf education and sign language even though she had been a student in a school for the deaf. As she read the book and discovered Abbé Charles Michel de l'Épée, the founder of the very first school for the deaf in the world, she was inspired! Using the black and white picture of him from the book as her only reference, she created the color painting of him. Source: "Jean Boutcher, Deaf Artist" Laurent Clerc and Gallaudet University: FOLDA KIT 2013
The statue of Abbé de l'Épée located at the St. Mary's School for the Deaf in Buffalo, NY. The sculptor was Eugene E. Hannan, a former student at the Kendall School and a member of the Gallaudet class of 1901.
In 1934, seven Gallaudet students touched the top of the Washington monument via a 500-foot elevator ride and 55 feet of climbing ladders. At that time, the monument was wrapped in scaffolding while workers repaired lightning damage. The students obtained permission to ascend the scaffolding in the workmen's elevator. They then climbed the last 55 feet up a narrow ladder to the top. They could see where repairmen were working to seal a large crack running for about 25 feet down the side of the monument. Five students were from the Gallaudet class of 1939, one from 1936 and the other 1937.
Click here for more information.
The construction for this monument began in 1848; it was finally completed in 1884. The reason for a halt in construction was due to the combination of Civil War, the Know Nothing Party’s rise to control of the Washington National Monument Society through an illegal election and lack of funding.