Famous Deaf Women | Sorenson

For many people the phrase “Famous Deaf Women” means Helen Keller and Marlee Matlin and not much else. But there are so many more awesome Deaf Women out there both past and present. We cannot list them all, but we’ve highlighted some of them as we celebrate both Women’s History Month and Deaf History Month.

Perhaps you know of some famous Deaf women. Maybe you even know some personally?

We’ve picked a few to share with you. Do you know about these amazing ladies?

Agatha Tiegel Hanson — 1873-1959

Teacher, poet, and community leader, Agatha Tiegel Hanson was the first woman to graduate from Gallaudet with a four-year degree in 1893, as well as being the first woman to serve as class valedictorian. She contracted spinal meningitis at age seven which left her deaf in both ears and blind in one eye. She began attending Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf when she was thirteen.

In 1887, Gallaudet (which was named the National Deaf-Mute college until 1894) began enrolling women on an experimental basis. Agatha enrolled in preparatory classes in 1888, at only fifteen years old!

She was part of a group of 13 women students that established a literary society named O.W.L.S. in 1892 and was its first president. (Only members of that society know what that abbreviation means.) In that literary society they discussed literature and debated with each other since the rules of the time prohibited them from debating with male students. O.W.L.S was the forerunner of today’s Phi Kappa Zeta.

Hanson taught at Minnesota School for the Deaf for six years. In 1899 she married deaf architect Olof Hanson and they moved to Seattle. In Seattle, both she and her husband were influential leaders in the local Deaf community. She wrote poetry throughout her life, including the well-known poems “Inner Music” and “Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet.”

Gallaudet University named its Hanson Plaza and Dining Hall in her honor.

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