Connect Grant: Undocumented Voices of Deaf Women Leaders: A Historical Analysis
Through the support of the Connect Grant in AY 2017, Deirdre Schlehofer and Pi Octavian Robinson, Ph.D, have been able to release their documentary videos on their project Undocumented Voices of Deaf Women Leaders: A Historical Analysis. Deirdre Schlehofer is an associate professor in the Department of Cultural and Creative Studies and Dr. Robinson is a former colleague in the department with a specialty in history. Below is the background and description for their work. Be sure to click on the links to see their riveting documentaries.
The Deaf President Now (DPN) movement of 1988 is considered a seminal civil rights movement for deaf people. DPN occurred at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., the world’s only liberal arts college for deaf people. Scholars and deaf activists claim DPN has made a tremendous impact on advancing the human, civil, and linguistic rights of deaf people across the globe. Thirty years later, very little has been written about deaf women and their significant role in DPN despite the protest being centered on removing the first woman appointed to Gallaudet’s top post. DPN is not the only place where deaf women’s narratives have remained buried. Very little has been written about the roles of deaf women within the larger narratives of American history, deaf history, feminist movements, and disability rights movements. This project takes on the task of gendering deaf history by excavating deaf women’s experiences in DPN. In addition to gendering deaf history, this project takes on the task of informing the audience about broader attitudes about gender, gendered roles, sexism, and feminism in American society during the latter part of the 20th century.
This project takes on a critical historical study to document, collect, preserve, and disseminate new understandings about deaf history, women’s history, American history, and the minority rights revolution. This historical understanding of the past informs our present as we work toward gender equity for deaf and hard-of-hearing women in the 21st century.
The documentary videos are now released to the public with the activists’ names being the respective titles: Bridgetta Bourne-Firl, Jackie Roth, and Carol Padden. All deaf women use American Sign Language (ASL) and the videos are captioned and voiced in English. These three deaf women leaders shared their experiences and perceptions about the 1988 Deaf President Now movement. This project is tied to exploring the intersections of gender, sexism, culture, and women’s rights, which reflect the university’s core values of collaboration, diversity, and interdisciplinary studies across all levels at RIT.