With March being both Women's History Month and Deaf History Month, this is a great time to focus on our superb children's biographies of deaf women who made great achievements despite the challenges that they faced:
You may know Juliette Gordon Low as the founder of the Girl Scouts, but did you know that she began to lose her hearing when she was a teenager, and was nearly completely deaf by the time she started the Girl Scout movement? Here Comes the Girl Scouts: The Amazing All-True Story of Juliette "Daisy" Gordon Low and Her Great Adventure is a bright biography for young learners; First Girl Scout: The Life of Juliette Gordon Low is a must read for those who want a more in-depth resource (this is a great read for adults as well, especially those who know little about Low's life; Juliette Gordon Low: The Remarkable Founder of the Girl Scouts is another fine read, but written for adults).
Helen Keller continues to be a popular personality for children's biographies; although there are many amazing biographies, Helen's Big World: The Life of Helen Keller is my favorite. Keller was deaf-blind and used Braille, raised print, and the American Sign Language manual alphabet to communicate (she also learned to speak and gave many speeches throughout her life). Who Was Helen Keller?, part of our insanely popular Who Was? series, is a great introduction for young readers. (Helen and Teacher remains my all-time favorite adult biography of Helen Keller; it's long out of print, so I'm hanging on to my personal copy as long as I can! Helen Keller's memoir, written when she was a student at Radcliffe College, is also a must.)
Marlee Matlin was not just the first (and so far, only) deaf actor to win an Academy Award, she's also the youngest actress (so far) to win the Best Actress Academy Award, at the age of 21 in 1986. Although her memoir is definitely written for adults, Deaf Child Crossing is based on her childhood experiences as a deaf child.
My Heart Glow: Alice Cogswell, Thomas Gallaudet, And the Birth of American Sign Language is a touching and sweet picture book story about Alice Cogswell, the first student at the first American school for deaf children (what eventually became the American School for the Deaf in Connecticut). Alice was a neighbor of Thomas Gallaudet, who promised her father that he would find a way to educate this bright and inquisitive child, as well as other deaf children like Alice.
Laura Bridgman is not nearly as well-known as Helen Keller, but her education paved the way for Helen Keller's success. She Touched the World: Laura Bridgman, Deaf-Blind Pioneer is a fascinating look at Bridgman's life at Perkins Institute, where she learned to communicate, read, and white.
If you'd like to learn more about American Sign Language, the language that many deaf people, including Marlee Matlin, use, check out the books in the J 419 section. (You can also learn the ASL manual alphabet, which Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller's teacher, used to teach Helen Keller.)
Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library