Form and Content
Anne E. Neimark’s A Deaf Child Listened: Thomas Gallaudet, Pioneer in American Education traces the life of Gallaudet from his education at Yale University to the establishment of schools for the deaf in the United States, the most prominent being the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Connecticut. The book is more than a simple biography of an educator; it traces emerging attitudes about hearing-impaired children and adults in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In the first two chapters, Neimark presents Gallaudet’s education and early employment. Chapter 3 introduces Alice Cogswell, the deaf child who piqued Gallaudet’s interest in effective communication with the hearing impaired.
A chapter on Gallaudet’s frustrated search in England and France for an effective method of communication with the deaf brings the reader to the main body of the work: five chapters on the growth of deaf education in the United States. These chapters focus on Gallaudet as he establishes a school for the deaf in Hartford; they also provide insight into the adult frustrations that accompany administrating any new venture. In contrast, the reader can sense the students’ struggles for understanding and communication in a hearing world. One such student is Sophia Fowler, whom Gallaudet marries. A concluding chapter introduces the educators who followed Gallaudet in the development of American Sign Language (ASL).
Instead of inventing dialogue, Neimark relies on Gallaudet’s journals, his correspondence, and other documents that provide information about his life and work. Although such quotations are not documented by footnotes, they are well introduced in the text. Each chapter is introduced with a sign language initial, but the complete alphabet is not presented. Other signs are described in the text but not pictured or illustrated in any way.
Neimark provides a brief bibliography, a listing of national service organizations and centers for the deaf, and an index. The bibliography provides a variety of sources, including an American Sign Language textbook, an ASL dictionary, various books and articles about deaf education, other biographies of Gallaudet, and his personal journals and letters.