Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Alice Cogswell's forgotten teacher-DH #1

The video is 6:36 minutes long. Barb DiGi shares the educational background of Alice Cogswell before she met Thomas H. Gallaudet. Barb attended the Deaf History Conference at Gallaudet and gathered fascinating facts that changed the whole picture of Alice Cogswell who was once thought to have little or no ability to read and write before meeting Gallaudet. The researchers involved were Los Bragg and Diana Gates of Gallaudet University. Please refer to David Evans's journal to read more about it.
Please note that Lydia Sigourney started her teaching career at the age 16 but was 23 years old when she had Alice Cogswell. Also Alice Cogswell died in the year of 1830, not at the same time as Thomas H. Gallaudet died.
If you are unable to view the video, click on this youtube link.


Lipstick said...

Wow, thanks for sharing this information! This is really interesting. Perhaps Harlan Lane would like to comment on this and revise the story he wrote in "When the Mind Hears." Just a note about the sign for POETRY... the sign you use generally refers to signed poetry while the poetry that Ms. Sigourney created was most likely written poetry. Perhaps you want to use the other sign (like music) more commonly used for spoken language poetry? Thank you again for sharing this important story!

Barb DiGi said...

Thanks, glad you enjoyed it. I guess I was in the habit of avoiding initialized signs and that I was signing POET not POETRY when describing about Lydia's role. I should have fingerspelled the word instead of signing in ASL that is approximately translated as "heart" + "express" + "person".

Karen Mayes said...

Cool... I did not know about Lydia Sigourney's impact. I actually thought Thomas G. was a major key person in Alice's life. Men! ;o).

Well, now Lydia is finally getting recognition and credit long overdue.

David Ennis said...

Alice Cogswell died in 1851 as same year as Thomas Galluadet died? not correct, In fact Alice Cogswell loved her dad, Dr Mason Cogswell, one of three co-founders of ASD. In 1830, her dad died that caused Alice becoming depressed and died of heartbroken in that same year. Thomas Galluadet died in 1851. Laurent Clerc was only co-founder of the ASD to survive after the Civil War. In 1864, Clerc witnessed the new foundation of National Deaf-Mute College (now Gallaudet University when the young president Edward Gallaudet awarded the honor degrees to Carlin and then Clerc ( I can't remember what kind of degrees) Clerc finally died of old age in 1869.

I knew little about mr. Weld he took over Thomas Gallaudet"s principal of ASD in 1831. Thomas Gallaudet became a chaplin of the women prison where he works as Gospel ministry to the women criminals and later wrote some children books.

I once visited the cementery where Laurent and Elizabeth Clerc were buried. Unexpectly, I found other plots that located next to Laurent and Elizabeth Clerc burial - Weld family and Peet families. Later, I learned that Thomas Galluadet was buried there but later he was removed and transferred to the other cementery.

What's about Alice Cogswell? Yes, Alice Cogswell and her family were buried in the same cementery but their plot is really far away from Laurent and Elizabeth Clerc burial. I checked other plots around Cogswell plot but I don't know them except most plots's dead dates are between 1820's to 1830's I realized that particular area of the plots are old of that cementery. Bad news about Alice Cogswell's brown gravestone, it is in extremely poor condition and very difficult legible. The base of that gravestone is broken too I was really disappointed. I have no idea if the gravestone can survive because I visited there in 1993.

Eldon said...

Very interesting history of Lydia Sigourney...I enjoy to watch your V/Blog..
Thanks for sharing this important history!

Barb DiGi said...


I did not mean for Alice Cogswell's death date in 1851 as it was Thomas H. Gallaudet's death date. I realize that I may not be clear as I intended to say that Alice died already as she was 25 yrs old which was the year of 1830. You are right that she died from broken heart when her father died (13 days later after his death). Thanks for bringing it up and allowing me to clarify.

Also thanks for sharing your part about Alice Cogswell's tombstone. How sad! I couldn't find any portraits of Alice except the statue. Any ideas?

David Ennis said...

No problems at all i still enjoy watching your vlogs. You are right that there are any portraits of Alice Cogswell that don't exist unless the portrait may be found in the flea market or antique shop or auction. Who know?

The statue of Alice? Well, the statue of Alice is simply made up. I don't know what the real face of Alice looks like. Sculptor French created Thomas Gallaudet with Alice in 1880's. My perspective of Thomas Galludet's face looks like Fabio. The real face of Thomas Galluadet is so different as same as I believe Alice's real face too.

Anonymous said...


I knew it... I had a feeling something was funny with the original story.

It's such a shame that it's not clarified in Deaf history books. This should be done right away.

I said a while ago that Gallaudet was just a vessel, and that he deserved only the credit for bringing Clerc to America, that's it.


Thanks so much for posting your vlog!


p.s. What software/hardware did you use for your videos? Your videos are of high quality and I'd love to be able to do that in my vlogs.

Thanks again

John Lestina --- said...

Response to Barb DiGi: CLICK HERE

Carl Schroeder said...

Hooray for Lydia Sigourney"

mochame said...

Amazing story! I never been to Gallaudet University but i read some of their great stories, Thank for your sharing storytelling.

RLM said...

I did read something about Linda Sigoruney during my Gally years. I was preoccupied with other things.

Could you clarify whether Linda Sigourney deaf or hearing herself? My best assumption is hearing from what I read about her.

Were you saying that Alice Cogswell have a deaf sister or what?

History itself is not a perfect art which have to be closely scrutinized and analyzed and interpreted as factual, not someone's agenda.

Handful of so-called historical facts are really myth or propaganda anyway.

Didn't you know that Thomas Gallaudet resigned as a principal and adminstrator of American School of the Deaf in furor?

Laurent Clerc made more money than Thomas Gallaudet due to his dual roles as an educator and sign language facilatator. Gallaudet really cherished Clerc in many ways despite their frequent bickerings.

Robert L. Mason (RLM)

Anonymous said...

If Lydia Sigourney was a writer and poet, perhaps she wrote about her budding career (started teaching at 16 yrs of age?) ? Any historian checking on her estate? Was she famous enough to bequest her papers to a library or college?

Barb DiGi said...

Alice's siblings were all hearing and Lydia Sigourney as well. The siblings knew home signs and fingerspelling that they helped Lydia to communicate with Alice.

Yes, we have to be cautious on what to believe when reading about history. What convinced me about the validity of this story was when reading letters and diaries during the presentation.

Robert,, thanks for sharing about Thomas Gallaudet. I recalled reading somewhere that Clerc was paid less than Gallaudet in early years. I would love to see proof of that Robert!

Hey Carl..loved your analogy about the horse. Thanks for the chuckles!

John, Braidwood may be a common name especially that it is from England carrying these names from generation to generation in America. Nevertheless, your question is a valid one!

Anonymous, Lydia Sigourney was a renowned poet as she was the first woman making a living from writing. I have seen her work published somewhere when reading a link from Google. You can check it out. I can get back to you when I find it.

Erick, yes we have been told a myth just like we have learned about Christopher Columbus when growing up. Reading primary source is a must to verify history! About the quality, I used a server that host quicktime and I had to pay for it. For all it is worth, my video clips are no longer blocked in secondary schools where there is access. I am now able to share my clips with teachers, staff and students. What a free feeling!

It is my pleasure sharing these stories. I consider it as my deaf studies portfolio.

Anonymous said...

If I recall, the Braidwoods sent a son to America to establish an oral school but it failed due to that person imbibing (was a drunkard) and gambling.

The family also snubbed Gallaudet while he visited them in England. They wanted to get paid first for sharing their teaching "secrets".

The above might be just folklore.

Cy said...

Wow. Never heard of Lydia Sigourney until you vlogged about her. Thanks for bringing us up to date about our rich deaf history! Like many parts of our American history taught in classrooms, a lot of them are myths, legends and twisted half truths. Deaf history is not any different, I suppose.

Gallaudet Protest Legal Issues said...

CLICK HERE to see a photo of the grave of Mason Cogswell, and CLICK HERE to see Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet's grave.

Gallaudet Protest Legal Issues said...

PS Alice is buried with her father. She died 13 days after he died. Her name is on the tombstone, too, if you click on the link above.

ASL Risen said...

Wow about Lydia Sigourney! I did paused to look at the picture. 16 yrs old teaching like in "mainstream" while Oral Braidwood no response to Dr Cogswell??? Very interesting story!!!

BIG THANK YOU so MUCH for sharing that fascinating stories with us!


Anonymous said...


Keep up good work! Your passion in the works of deaf worldwide issues are enlightening us.


Anonymous said...

I enjoy watch your vlogs and you are very interesting person to share the history and your issues.

I think you should write books on update correction real history of Deaf people in America because of many Deaf people today in Anerica dont know about Deaf history especially important education for young Deaf children learn about Deaf history. I am so glad you involved and interested to learn more about Deaf history to share with us. Iam very interested to learn from your Deaf history. I only know little bit about Deaf people in America. Definately Deaf history is very important!! please continue share Deaf history on Vlogs and thank you for sharing!!

Susan said...

thanks for sharing, Barb, about Sigourney. I agree with Carl, she must be a wonderful educator. Wow she started so young! Wonder what made her want to help the deaf?

the photo of graves supplied by Gallaudet Protest Legal Issues says Gallaudet retired in 1830, the same year that Alice and her father died. Interesting.

Jean Boutcher said...


Thanks for sharing.


Thanks for yours also. You said that Thomas Galludet's face looks like Fabio. You are correct in this regard. I painted three portraits of THG. You can visit
my art work at www.rit.edu/~420www/data.htm. Click "Artists" and then click my name Jean Boutcher. Then you will see one of the three. It is based on French's statue. It hangs at
Gallaudet. The second painting that looks like "Fabio" is still in my studio. If interested, contact me at JeanBout@Juno.Com, and then I will send it to you via email.

I used to live on Signourney Street in Hartford, two blocks from Mark Twain's home!

Anonymous said...

I do not know why no one recognizes Lydia Signourney until now. What made the statue of Thomas Gallaudet-Alice Cogswell so special?

I truly wish that the Gallaudet could provide all of us to take a course, Deaf History 101.

White Ghost

Domvera said...


Your vlog made good topic discussion on Lindsay Sigourney. Personally, I believe more deaf and hard of hearing historians made many discoveries to unlock the secrets of the past. I wish deaf filmmakers would produce the film about deaf history to educate the range of diversity people in America.
Thank you for bringing up great discussion.

Nick Vera

Domvera said...


Your vlog made good topic discussion on Lindsay Sigourney. Personally, I believe more deaf and hard of hearing historians made many discoveries to unlock the secrets of the past. I wish deaf filmmakers would produce the film about deaf history to educate the range of diversity people in America.
Thank you for bringing up great discussion.

Nick Vera

Todd said...

Thank you (& Dave Evans!) for an illuminating expose on a sacred part of American Deaf history. Definitely gives me pause and forces me to reexamine Deaf History with a more discerning and critical eye.

I do, however, want to touch on a couple of things;

How did Alice become Deaf? It can't be spinal menigitis, as it was often a fatal illness back then, and antibiotics were nonexistent, let alone those antibiotics that are ototoxic.

This is purely anecdotal; I read it somewhere and I cannot remember the source to attribute it properly. T.H. Gallaudet did visit the Braidwood school, but discovered that the family wanted royalties for their Deaf Education secrets and methods. T.H. Gallaudet met Clerc, and the rest is history.

Thirdly, T.H. Gallaudet made a risky voyage overseas, and a one-way trip usually lasted two months. Sure, Lydia Sigourney could have easily made the same sacrifices and risks. More importantly, T.H. Gallaudet followed up on Deaf Education in America. Where was Lydia Sigourney in the era of Laurent Clerc? I would love to know the answer to that question.

Again, Lydia Sigourney is getting her deserved share of the attention by historians involved in Deaf History, and I look forward to reading more about her as historians uncover more about her life and her work.

mule4350 said...

Interesting to hear more deaf history and keep uodate news!