By Hugh Dominic W Stiles, on 17 May 2019
An American Deaf man of the late 19th century, Marcus Hill Kerr was born in Liberty Township, Jackson, Michigan, in 1845. His father Robert was a farmer with at least eight children, and as the town was settled in 1835, the Kerr family must have been one of the first in the district. When he was three he suffered from ‘brain fever’ and lost his hearing as a result. When he was twelve he was sent to Flint, to the Michigan School for the Deaf, and he graduated from there in 1865 (Gallaher, p.142, from which much of what follows comes, and Obituary). Kerr went on to study at Gallaudet, to what level I cannot say – Gallaher says merely he ‘spent some time’ there.
His artistic talent was evident as a child – for example, he drew ‘an Indian shooting an elephant on a small wooden box’! The article in Representative Deaf Persons of the United States of America seems to have been from interview with Kerr, and we have a few particular details of his early life, such as that he would read newspapers at the local ‘news depot’ but as he could not afford to buy them, he would draw pictures from memory afterwards.
Marcus’s first oil painting was painted when he was thirteen and was of his old shepherd dog. He also made landscapes and portraits, ‘for a living’ before going to Rochester, New York, to study under a ‘celebrated artist’ Professor Adam Springfield.* Before that he had been entirely self-taught. Kerr went on to the artists’ colony in New York we are told, and then travelled to Europe in 1871, including visits to London, Düsseldorf and Paris. The article says he ‘studied’ in these places. Probably that means he was studying under his own steam, and we may wonder how long he was studying with the celebrated Professor. Springfield was a witness to Kerr’s passport application, in September 1872 – was he going abroad then, after getting married, rather than in 1871? That would be an area for further research.
In September 1871, he married a Deaf lady from Jackson, called Adele George (1834-1921), nine years his senior, but who had also been at the Michigan School. Hois obituary does not mention her, but does say he lived at the corner of Elm street and Main. Adele is herself really interesting, and if you can you should read the article on her by Seitz and Laffrado cited below. She was a poor Deaf woman who found her voice, writing and publishing her life story, A brief narrative of the life of Miss Adele M. George: (being deaf and dumb) in a number of different editions over many years, from 1859, then selling sufficient copies to rescue herself and her mother from homelessness.
Adele married a cousin, Harrison Jewell, and they had three children including a Deaf son who went to the Michigan School but died aged sixteen. They were divorced, and then Adele married Marcus Kerr. The marriage was not successful in the long run, and they had to endure the loss of three children in infancy. Their divorce in 1890 was reported in the newspapers, as Kerr was well known, though Adele (Adell) is described in the city directory for Jackson in 1899 and also in 1902, as ‘Kerr, Adelle (wid Marcus H) bds 736 S Milwaukee’ – in other words she was calling herself a widow before Marcus died (Seitz and Lallrado p.174). Kerr had accused Adele of “extravagance and desertion” (ibid.). we might wonder what blame he carried – he did not wait about, marrying another deaf lady, Mamie E. Nettleton of Indiana, in January 1891.**
Kerr spent his later years in St. Louis, moving there in 1885, painting the ex-mayor Walbridge, as well as a pastel of the Rev. Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, which was exhibited at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893, and was presented to the college. He also painted Helen Keller and Alexander Graham Bell. Do these portraits survive?
The most bizarre thing about Marcus Kerr, is his entry in Peeps into the Deaf World, where we discover that he trained a pug to perform various tricks. It was this picture that got me looking into his life. Whether this was a pastime or perhaps an additional source of income I do not know. I am sure there is more to discover. His end was sad, and a fate shared by many deaf people over the years. He was knocked over when crossing a road on the 10th of April, 1903, by a car he did not of course hear.
Mamie is pretty opaque in the records – at least after a brief search I have not been able to pin her down, neither have I found Kerr on the 1900 census, but I have little time to look. Did their marriage last, or did she die? In his obituary she is not named. That obituary, in the Jackson Citizen, quoting the St. Louis Post and Dispatch, says he had a studio at 3837 Delmar Avenue (see article on Find a Grave in the link below).
*Someone I have not been able to track down in the brief time available to research this blog in any detail, but have found this romantic Victorian historical painting by him.
Gallaher, James E., Representative Deaf Persons of the United States of America, 1898 (2nd ed.) p.142-3
Roe, W.R., Peeps into the Deaf World, 1917 p.290-1
The St. Louis Republic. (St. Louis, Mo.), 11 April 1903. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84020274/1903-04-11/ed-1/seq-3/>
Seitz, Rush, and Laffrado, Laura, Adele M. George Jewel Kerr (1834–?), Legacy Vol. 30, No. 1, Special Issue: Women Writing Disability (2013), pp. 172-183
US Census returns
Year: 1850; Census Place: Liberty, Jackson, Michigan; Roll: M432_352; Page: 402A; Image: 556
Year: 1880; Census Place: Jackson, Jackson, Michigan; Roll: 585; Page: 424D; Enumeration District: 123
Passport Record – National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Roll #: 187; Volume #: Roll 187 – 01 Aug 1872-30 Sep 1872
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]
James William Arthur Sturdee, R.A.D.D. Chaplain to the Deaf, Deptford – “As an interpreter he was valuable”
By Hugh Dominic W Stiles, on 10 May 2019
Born in Deptford, Kent, in 1846, and son of James Sturdee, a tailor, and his wife Maria, James William Arthur Sturdee (1846-1910) was educated at Dartford Grammar School (which Gilby has, probably erroneously, as Deptford Grammar School). “By some means he came into contact with the Rev. S. Smith, and on his advice went to the Institution at Newcastle-on-Tyne, where he learned to teach the deaf for a space, and returned to London later, where he became a student missionary to the deaf, attending lectures at King’s College, and was ordained Deacon by the Bishop of Rochester in 1876.” (Gilby, 1910)
In 1875, the Kentish Mercury for Saturday 5th of June, 1875, relates a Royal Association in Aid of the Deaf and Dumb meeting, in which a lecture was interpreted by Sturdee. The lecture was by Mr. T. Brain on “The Manners and Customs of the East.”
Mr. STURDEE said after such an admirable lecture, it was not necessary for him to say much to them, but he was in duty bound to thank the assembly for the interest they were taking in his work amongst the poor afflicted people in their midst. Had it not been for the sign language, many present would have gone any perfectly ignorant of the nature of the lecture, but now they were perfectly acquainted with all that had been said by the lecturer, and in consequence would be able to read their Bibles with greater attention (applause). There were over 50 deaf and dumb persons in that neighbourhood, and he was afraid when be went to Woolwich and other places he would find many more who had not been brought under the influence of the Association.
It seems however, that the congregation found Sturdee unsatisfactory because he was, at least early on, rather poor at signing. He was then at some point dismissed by the Royal Association in Aid of the Deaf and Dumb, then later re-employed. Gilby does not say that, and gives Sturdee some credit at least in the Ephphatha obituary:
The erection of the little Church of St. Barnabas was due to his energies, and as a Freemason he found his connections of-much use in raising the funds. The foundation-stone of St. Bamabas’ was laid by W. J. Evelyn, Esq., the donor of the site, on May 13th, 1882 and the church was opened on St. Barnabas’ Day, June, 1883
Gilby only mentions the Rev. Sturdee four times in his incomplete memoir, and then only in passing. He says in 1888,
I left London on April 30th for my third and last term at Durham, breaking the journey this time at Birmingham in order to see the Edgbaston Institution for deaf children. Mr. Edward Townsend, the Head Master, was already known to me. Our friendship was to last many years. I lunched with Canon Owen Vicar of St. George’s, Edgbaston. (He is now Dean of Ripon). Very soon after this he became Chairman of our Committee in London. He told me he was doing all he could to get me licensed to St. Saviour’s the following Christmas. I was surprised, knowing there was another Chaplain, the Rev. J.W.A. Sturdee, of Deptford, much older than myself. (p.80)
In 1892 Sturdee was offered the living of Compton Dundon, in Somerset. The Silent World, says he left London for health reasons, but perhaps he felt he had been passed over. Later, in 1898, he moved on to the large parish of St. David’s Church, Edgbaston, Birmingham. He died in Edgbaston in February 1910.
The Silent World says, “As an interpreter he was valuable, and was always a welcome preacher at the Birmingham Adult Deaf Mission Hall.”
John Lyons of Bristol University kindly sent me the following, which I reproduce in full, as for some reason since the UCL blog ‘improvements’ it seems impossible to comment. Many thanks to him.
Sturdee is a very interesting, if rather peripheral, figure. He tried to become Chaplain at St Saviour’s in 1888 as Charles Rhind’s replacement. He was asked to demonstrate his signing ability in front of around 50 deaf people—“a good proportion from Deptford”, where he was chaplain—along with another candidate, a Mr Hill.
Sturdee’s signing abilities had long been questioned, had led to him being let go by the Association after the appointment of William Stainer in the early 1870s, before returning, first as a shared missionary between East End and South East and then as full-time missionary for the Greenwich and Deptford Auxiliary. So even though this was taking place after some dozen or so years working in South East London, Sturdee still had to prove his skills.
A special Trustees meeting on Feb 14th 1888 received a report drawn up by Mr Bather, Mr Davidson, Mr Bright Lucas, and Mr Salmond about the event which had taken place that afternoon. The materials selected were the general confession, the collect for Ash Wednesday and the Gospel for that day. Sturdee went first.
“He spelled through the General Confession. He says it has been his practice always to do so because he expects the congregation to join in it. The other prayer and the gospel he signed, and he then gave a short address or sermon. His spelling is distinct enough but there is no fluency in it – every word and letter is spelt alike without variation of tone or emphasis. He succeeded best in his address.”
Hill followed but struggled to convince the audience he had the relevant skills.
When audience comments were solicited, “several said Mr Sturdee was a good hard working man but no one distinctly stood up for his signs or spelling.”
It was proposed at the event that a temporary appointment be made or that the Association wait for Gilby. If pushed, the sub-committee recommendation would be for Sturdee. But instead Stainer was appointed as a temporary chaplain under the direction of the local parish vicar, J W. Ayre. Sturdee, pushed out by Stainer and later by Gilby and with his skills still deemed inadequate, eventually moved into a hearing ministry in Somerset.
Gilby, F.W.G., Death of J.W.A. Sturdee, Ephphatha, 1910, p. 78
The Late Rev. J.W.A. Sturdee, The Silent World, 1910, vol. 2, p.32
Thanks to Norma McGilp @DeafHeritageUK for additional information.
By Hugh Dominic W Stiles, on 3 May 2019
Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, who was born 250 years ago, in 1769, suffered from noise-related hearing loss caused by artillery. William Wright tells us,
The Duke of Wellington was inspecting an experimental carriage for a howitzers and whilst in advance of the gun, gave the word ” Fire ;” the result was the rupture of the membrane of the drum of the left ear. The Duke went immediately to Mr. Stevenson who told his Grace the story, about thickening the drum of the ear. The solution of caustic was applied; instant pain ensued, from the caustic passing through the ruptured membrane amongst the ossicula, and very sensitive internal tissues. Within six hours the Duke was conveyed home from Lord Liverpool’s, in a state of insensibility, and it was only by most careful, skilful treatment that his life was then preserved. He went to Verona, a great sufferer, and the country had very properly to make a handsome compensation to Dr. Hume, and his family, for giving up his practice to attend the Duke on his mission. (Wright, 1860, p.75-6)
Graham Smelt says that this was on On August the 5th, 1822. His hearing loss was made considerably worse by the botched treatment, a story related by a Mr Gleig, in an anecdote that suggests it was Hume who was to blame –
The Duke, many years ago, being deaf, sent for his medical man, who poured some stuff into his ear, not knowing that the drum of the ear was broken. This proved very mischievous in its results. The Duke said it was not sound that was restored to him; it was something terrifically beyond sound: the noise of a carriage passing under his window was like the rolling of thunder. Thus suffering, he returned home about the middle of the day, and went to bed. Next day, Dr. Hume called and found the Duke staggering about the room. Dr. Hume, although he well knew the Duke’s temperate habits, supposed that he had taken a little too much wine overnight, and had not recovered from it. He was leaving the room, when the Duke said to him : Hume, I wish you would look to my ear ; there is something wrong there.’ Hume looked and saw that a furious inflammation had begun, extending to the brain ; another hour, and the stuff would have done for the Duke what all his enemies had failed to do : it would have killed him. Hume bled him copiously, sent for Sir Henry Halford and Sir Astley Cooper, who treated him with great skill, and brought him round. The poor man came next day and expressed his great regret. The Duke spoke to him in his kindest manner and said, I know you did not mean to harm me ; you did your best, but I am very deaf.’ Upon which, the Doctor said, I am very sorry for it ; but my whole professional prospects are at stake, and if the world hears of it I shall be ruined.’ ‘The world need not hear at all about it,’ said the Duke; ‘keep your counsel, and I’ll keep mine.’ The Doctor, encouraged by this, went a little further : Will you let me attend you still, and let the world suppose that you still have confidence in me ?’ ‘No, no,’ said the Duke, ‘I cannot do that ; that would not be truthful.’ (Davies, 1854 p.16-17)
To me this sounds like a well-rehearsed anecdote, but there is something ‘missing,’ it seems to me, in Wright’s account, in that he seems to imply that Hume had some hand in the affair without explicitly saying so. Or is he just omitting Stevenson’s name, and ‘the poor man’ is Stevenson? Smelt says that Stevenson was to blame, and that Hume treated him afterwards. In an earlier book, Wright tells us –
Deleau states that he can reach the cavity of the tympanum by a bent probe, or catheter. If he even can do so, which I consider is very problematical, I am convinced the operation is attended with considerable danger, for the ossicula (the small bones) which extend from the inside of the membrana tympani, to the opposite side of the cavity, would be in great danger of being forced from the situation in which Providence has been pleased to place them, or their functions would be otherwise diminished, or destroyed, and such would be the effect of any injury being inflicted on this delicate organization, that inflammation of the brain, and even death, would be a probable consequence. An example of this was unfortunately nearly afforded about the end of 1822, or beginning of 1823, in the case of the Duke of Wellington, a lotion of lunar caustic had been dropped into the external auditory passage, there was an opening at the time through the membrane (or drum), from an accidental cause, and the caustic lotion entered the cavity beneath, containing the highly sensative [sic] integuments, and machinery therein placed ; the results were intense pain; in a few hours inflammation of the brain, with symptomatic fever, and his life was only preserved by the most prompt and efficient treatment pursued by his Physician, aided by other medical and surgical advice derived from the first men of the age. In June, 1823, I was called into attendance on his Grace, as his aurist, and continue still to attend him when necessary ; even at this distant period from the unfortunate occurrence, the Duke feels sufficient unpleasant effects occasionally, not to allow him to forget it, independent of the privation of his left ear.* Similar, if not even worse, must necessarily be the consequence of introducing an instrument into the cavity of the tympanum, even if the patient be in a state of health; but if there exist any tendency to inflammatory action, scrofula, or erysipelas, the danger is increased, and the disastrous effects, or even fatal termination of the experiment, for it is nothing more in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, unavoidable. (Wright, 1839, p.55-7)
* In pp. 159 and 160, of “An Exposition of Quackery and Imposture in Medicine,” written by Dr. Caleb Ticknor, of New York, republished in this country, which I edited, and upon which I wrote copious notes, will be found a further account of the Duke of Wellington’s case.
Note how free doctors were then with patient information, while the patient was still alive. Smelt suggests as well as the seriously damaged ear, he also had noise-induced hearing loss in his other ear as he got older.
In 1852 the Duke wrote in a letter,
I have none of the infirmities of old age I excepting Vanity perhaps. But that is a disease of the mind, not of the Body ! My deafness is accidental ! If I was not deaf, I really believe that there is not a youth in London who could enjoy the world more than myself or could bear fatigue better, but being deaf, the spirit, not the body, tires. One gets bored, in boring others, and one becomes too happy to get home. (Wellington, 1854, p.314-5)
Losing his hearing had other consequences, as we see from this on February 20th, 1848 from the Greville memoirs –
At the House of Lords on Friday night, for the Committee on the Diplomatic Bill. Government beaten by three, and all by bad management ; several who ought to have been there, and might easily have been brought up, were absent : the Duke of Bedford, Duke of Devonshire, Lord Petre, a Catholic, dawdling at Brighton, and Beauvale. The Duke of Wellington, with his deafness, got into a complete confusion, and at the last moment voted against Government. (Greville, 1888, p.129)
When he was in his eighties, as members of Derby’s 1852 government were announced, the now quite deaf Duke kept repeating, “Who? Who?” It became known as the “Who? Who?” ministry.
Davies, George Jennings, The completeness of the late duke of Wellington as a national character, 1854
Greville, Charles Cavendish Fulke, The Greville Memoirs: A Journal of the Reigns of King George IV, King … 1888
Hazlitt, William, ed, Arthur Wellesley Duke of Wellington, The Speeches of the Duke of Wellington in Parliament, Volume 2, 1854
Smelt, Graham, Wellington’s Deafness. Abstract presented at the meeting British Society for the History of ENT, Held December 1st 2011 In the Toynbee McKenzie Room, at the Royal Society of Medicine, London
Wright, William, A few minutes’ advice to deaf persons…, 1839
Wright, William, On the varieties of deafness and diseases of the ear, 1829
Wright, William, Deafness and Diseases of the Ear: The Fallacies of Present Treatment Exposed … 18
By Hugh Dominic W Stiles, on 26 April 2019
Kathleen Trousdell Shaw was born in Edmonton, Middlesex, in 1865, daughter of a doctor Alfred Shaw, who was at the time working in London. According to her the Silent World article, she was brought up in Ireland, where the family was from, when she was a child. The story related in that article, is that when she was nine she was ‘enthralled’ watching a stonemason carve the lettering for her grandmother’s tombstone in the churchyard (where it does not say), and the mason gave her some stone and two chisels so that she could try carving herself. Her talent was sufficiently remarkable that she was sent to Dublin Art School aged ten. The article on her from Freeman’s Journal, says, “There is a gruesome poetry about the picture, a tiny soft-lipped child stands by and gravely watches a man engaged upon work of the significance of which she is utterly unconscious.”
She gained medals and prizes and when fifteen years old managed to collect £25 with which she went to Paris and joined her elder sister in a tiny flat in the Quartier Latin. To her great joy she was accepted as a student at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, where there were no fees, and where she could study under the most eminent French artists and sculptors.
At seventeen she returned to Dublin where she did a few portrait busts, including one of Prince Edward of Saxe-Weimar, but before long she was travelling again, having won a scholar-ship of £200 for two years. This enabled her to carry out her ambition of going to Rome where she attended the studio of M. Charles Desvergne and led a pleasant life among the artists and critics, besides meeting young people of her own age at parties and dances.
[…] From the age of thirty she was stone deaf. She returned for a time to London, and worked in Julian’s studio and in the British Museum, when she got the chance of going to Athens with her friend, Miss Venning.* They went in a French ship and she made a medallion portrait of the French captain which delighted the sailors. ‘C’est lui-meme,’ they said, ‘It is he himself’.
In Athens the British Ambassador befriended them and used to take them out in his yacht to visit some of the beautiful islands, and Miss Shaw did several portraits of diplomats and some of lovely Greek children. When she returned to England she lived for a time at Knutsford in Cheshire, doing portrait busts both in bronze and marble and exhibiting in the Royal Academy. One of the Duchess of Buckingham in marble was specially admired. Later in London she made busts of Lord Avebury, the beautiful Countess Annesley and many distinguished people, which were exhibited at the Royal Academy and in the Paris Salon. […]
Her work was recognized and honoured when she was made a Member of the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1907. She was the first woman sculptor to be made a member of any Royal Academy in the British Isles. (James, p.266-7)
According to the 1901 census, Shaw saw at that time living in York Street Chamber, Marylebone, a near neighbour being Rosamond Venning. These chambers were “The York Street Chambers were built in 1892 to house single professional women and the tenants were principally artists, authors, nurses.” It would possibly be useful to anyone trying to uncover more about Shaw, to have a look at what records survive – it might for example tell us how long she was there.
It seems that Venning was involved in the suffrage movement as can be seen from a letter in the Women’s Library Archive. By the time of the 1911 census, they were living together in 13 Belsize Park Gardens, and Shaw is described as Venning’s adopted daughter. Their friendship must have begun much earlier, for the article says ‘until she was thirty she could just hear the voices of two people, her mother and her friend Miss Rosamund [sic] Venning’ (p.266). As she made a relief of Venning in 1892, they must have been acquainted at least no later than that.
She lived with Rosamond at Pitt Cottage, Cadmore End, Buckinghamshire, in the 1920s, during which period she lost her sight, and when Rosamond died she left her estate to Kathleen.
Kathleen Shaw died on the 30th of June, 1958, in Amersham Hospital.
Among her work is the bust of Archbishop Alexander, husband of the Deaf hymn-writer, Fanny Alexander, in Armagh Cathedral, and the Armagh war memorial. A war memorial font cover in Cadmore Church, with a silver figure, was made with gifts of silver from villagers. Also, she made a monument to two Venning ancestors at Totnes.
How tragic that blindness cut short her career.
This reference gives a long list of here work –
*Venning seems to have been an antiquarian – see https://archive.org/stream/annualreportamern115amer/annualreportamern115amer_djvu.txt and also https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Page:Folk-lore_-_A_Quarterly_Review._Volume_5,_1894.djvu/366.
James, The Honorable Mrs. B.R., Kathleen Trousdell Shaw, Silent World, 1954, p.266-7
1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 111; Folio: 158; Page: 39
1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 609
Ancestry.com. Ireland, Select Marriages, 1619-1898 [database on-line].
Freeman’s Journal – Tuesday 01 May 1894, p.6
Pall Mall Gazette – Saturday 06 April 1895, p.3
Villagers Humble Gifts, Yorkshire Evening Post – Saturday 24 April 1920 p. 6
Western Times – Monday 14 April 1902, p.2
By Hugh Dominic W Stiles, on 16 April 2019
Doris Florence Morgan was born in Acton on the 13th of August, 1906, daughter of a ‘glove cleaner’ (later a dry cleaner) Henry Morgan, and his wife, Florence. The 1911 census, at which time they were living at 34 Goldsmith Road, Acton, tells us she was ‘deaf and dumb from birth.’ George William Munday was born in 1905, son a Albert (a cabman) and Annie Isabella. The 1911 census tells us that he was ‘deaf and dumb from 1 year.’ The two were married in April, 1933.
This story is simply told as all I have apart from this information, what I have is two newspaper clippings with Selwyn Oxley’s inimitable scrawl, which tell the sad story:
WEDDING PARTY AT A BRIDE’S CREMATION
Forty people who were guests at the wedding, ten days ago, of a London deaf and dumb girl, will reassemble on Saturday at Golders Green, N.W., when the young bride is to be cremated—in her bridal gown.
The girl, Doris Morgan, of Mansell-road, Acton, W., married George Mundy, of Hendon, N.W., also a deaf mute.
After a short honeymoon at Hastings, they returned to their new home last Saturday. On Sunday she was taken ill and became unconscious. She died next morning without recovering consciousness.
“She was a bright girl, strong and capable at her work,” said her father last night. “She was the last person one would have thought would meet with so sudden a death.” (Daily Herald, 20/4/1933)
A second report says –
Wedding March at a Funeral
DEAF AND DUMB BRIDE CREMATED IN WEDDING DRESS
Mendelssohn’s Wedding March was played by the organist and the funeral service was translated into the deaf and dumb language at the cremation at Golders Green to-day of Mrs. Doris Florence Munday, aged 26, of Mansell-road, Acton, W., the deaf and dumb bride who died nine days after her marriage.
Her husband, who is also deaf and dumb, attended the service with friends who were at the wedding. The dead woman was cremated in her bridal clothes in a white coffin.
The Rev. Herbert Trundle, chaplain of the Crematorium, read the service aloud which was interpreted in the deaf and dumb language by the Rev. H. M. Ainger, assistant chaplain to the Royal Society of the Deaf and Dumb, who officiated at the wedding of the couple a fortnight ago. (Evening Standard, 21/4/1933)
1911 Census (Morgan) – Class: RG14; Piece: 6958; Schedule Number: 493
1911 Census (Munday) – Class: RG14; Piece: 7109; Schedule Number: 286
The ‘Thankful Hearts League’ School for the Deaf, Jerusalem, 1931-? – “This is a wonderful place, here little devils are turned into angels”
By Hugh Dominic W Stiles, on 12 April 2019
Having previously covered Mary Chapman and her missionary deaf school work in south Asia, we recently mentioned her Jerusalem school in relation to the beginnings of Israeli Sign Language. Chapman raised funds through the “Thankful Hearts League” to found a mission school for the Deaf in Jerusalem, and started the school in 1931 according to Höxter (p.118). He continues,
Until now it has had but few pupils, mostly native Arab children, who receive their instruction in the English language from the directress in a small congenially arranged dwelling house. The school has a homelike atmosphere; the lovable directress cares for her small charges with affection and devotion. She has taught the deaf for thirty years in many lands. One of her former pupils from Burma instructs the children in manual training and drawing. With the younger children the method of instruction depends mainly upon observational activity, seeking to direct attention to training in lip-reading. Speech instruction is carried on by the single-sound method. The school should grow in the near future.
Chapman had the help of her long-time colleague Miss Martin, and the Burmese Deaf young man, Bolo. She appears to have written regular newsletters to her Thankful Hearts League supporters in the U.K., and they must have assisted with both money and material items such as clothes. In 1937 the school had a visit for Sir Arthur Wauchope the High Commissioner, who gave £10 for the school.
The school taught the boys with lipreading, and they learnt to lipread both English and Arabic. She says in the 1938 newsletter, “There are some sounds in Arabic which seem almost impossible to lip read, or to get a born deaf child to say, but we are persevering !!!”
Two of the Sergt. Majors came to our help one Sunday morning, when a Moslem man brought his little son to our School. The Matron of the Government Hospital most kindly said she would take the boy, give him a carbolic bath, and get the Doctor to examine him, before we admitted him to school. Miss Walden and I were so relieved, as we were alone with the boys, all the others having gone to Church, but our joy was short lived, for the telephone went, and the Matron said she was sending Ally back, as his screams, and kicks were frightening all the patients, many of whom were seriously ill. We knew that once the father had left, Ally would settle down happily with the other boys, so I went next door, and these two Sergt. Majors gladly came in, took the boy from his father, and gave him a bath. The Matron sent an Arab policeman from the hospital to help the father bring the boy back to school, for the poor man could do nothing with his son, and he is only seven years old . The policeman asked to see the school, and was amazed to see such a happy well behaved number of deaf and dumb boys!! and great was his astonishment when the boys spoke to him in Arabic, and answered the questions he asked them ; he went away saying “This is a wonderful place, here little devils are turned into angels”.
The school was still going in 1948, as Miss Mary F. Chapman’s School for the Deaf and Dumb, at 135 St. Paul’s Road, Jerusalem. I wonder if the school closed with the crisis that saw war in Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel? If you have any information, please add it below. I include the 1937 newsletter as a picture, and the 1938 one as a pdf. If there are other newsletters surviving, it would be nice to know.
Höxter, Richard, The Deaf and Provision for Their Education in Palestine. American Annals of the Deaf Vol. 82, No. 2 (March, 1937), pp. 117-121
“A letter arrived in May which sent me to Psalm 46:10” – Mary Corbishley’s Oral School at Cuckfield (1937-96)
By Hugh Dominic W Stiles, on 5 April 2019
It seems peculiar, but there were a large number of privately run Deaf Schools in Sussex in the 19th century. We might suppose it was the comparative closeness to London and the rural setting – also perhaps cheaper large buildings or houses suitable as small schools – that made it attractive. Cuckfield House was one such. It was founded by Mary Stephens Corbishley (1905-1995). She was born in Worcestershire, and was a sickly child, enduring a number of bouts of illness. She began working as a nurse to a Jewish family in Brighton in 1928, then the following year started to look after the 5 1/2 year old daughter of a doctor in Worthing, a girl who was then discovered to be going deaf (Stewart, p.14). Mary taught herself lip-reading by watching herself in the mirror.
Around that time she met Frank Barnes (1866-1932), the Teacher of the Deaf who had recently retired to the south coast, after being head of the Penn School. She had no school diploma and was therefore ineligible for a teacher training course such as that in Manchester, however, Barnes was sufficiently impressed by her to nominate her for associate membership of the National College for Teachers of the Deaf in 1929/30 (Stewart, p.18). She was offered a trainee teacher post by Mary and Ethel Hare’s Dene Hollow School, in 1931. While at that school she met and made friends with Miss Jessie B. Hancock, who had gone to America as nurse to a deaf boy, then trained and taught at the oralist Central Institute for the Deaf, St. Louis for a while (Stewart, p.31).
Some years previously, Corbishley had had a ‘spiritual’ conversion and became quite religious (Corbishley, p.25). It seems that eventually this spirituality began to conflict with the more secular nature of Mary Hare’s school, and Corbishley resigned on the 10th of March 1937 (she called it her ‘Thanksgiving Day’), although Mary Hare wrote her a nice reference (Stewart p.21-3). She soon happened upon a bed-sitter flat in Hassock, and was asked to take on teaching an eleven-year-old girl, Jean. Two more pupils quickly appeared, along with the threat of legal action by her former employer – “A letter arrived in May which sent me to Psalm 46:10” (Corbishley, P.40). Her landlady’s son who was studying law, helped her with advice and the firm of solicitors he worked for wrote a letter in return and the matter was quickly closed (ibid).
Corbishley found a permanent home for the school in Cuckfield in May, 1939. A copy of the school brochure from an uncertain date, but perhaps 1940s, tells us that fees were £50 a term. A brochure tells us,
The Aim of Cuckfield House is that deaf children should grow up in a healthy environment, with a variety of interests and the ability to enter into the normal activities of hearing children. To achieve this, special attention is given to Language, Speech and Lip-reading. A wide experience of the needs of the deaf has proved the necessity for constant intercourse with hearing people. A child accustomed to read only the lips of the teachers is at a disadvantage in both social and business spheres. Cuckfield House is fortunate in that it has a large circle of hearing friends, who frequently visit the School. The School stands in its own grounds, with playing fields adjoining, and is situated in the village of Cuckfield, one mile and a half from Haywards Heath.
During the war Ian Stewart tells us that Deaf London pupils from the Randall Place L.C.C. School, Roan Street, Greenwich, were evacuated to Cuckfield, but although orally taught (under a Miss G.A. Kirby in 1939), Corbishley was ‘disturbed’ to see them signing, so they were segregated from her pupils, lest they teach them signs (Stewart, p.42)!
Miss Hancock left in 1947 and worked privately in Midhurst, before moving to South Africa (Stewart, p.59).
The school closed on July 19th 1996, shortly after Corbishley’s death.
School Brochure, circa 1939/45?
CORBISHLEY, M., Corby. 1980
Stewart, Ian M., Mary Stephens Corbishley M.B.E.: A biography of her life and work at her Oral School for Deaf Children in Cuckfield, East Sussex, the U.K. 2010
By Hugh Dominic W Stiles, on 29 March 2019
According to Meir and Sandler’s 2008 book, A Language in Space: the Story of Israeli Sign Language (p.185), we know nothing of the signs used by deaf people, Jewish or Arabic, in the late Ottoman period in Jerusalem. Persecution in Europe in the 1930s saw immigration into British mandated Palestine, and an early Deaf immigrant was Moshe Bamberger, who arrived in Jerusalem in 1935 (ibid). A ‘Jewish School for Deaf Mutes’ had been established there in November, 1932, with the backing of a Jewish man from Shanghai who had lost his hearing, and a teacher from the Jewish Deaf School in Berlin was appointed as head.
The Jewish school for the deaf, which has the major part in the education of the deaf in Palestine, was called into being mainly by the efforts of the otologist, Dr. Marcus Salzberger, who soon after his settling in Palestine (1923) conceived the plan to establish such a school. As funds were necessary for such an undertaking, the carrying out of plan took several years. He found in Miss Jessie Samter of Rechowoth, near Tel-Aviv, a valuable aid who succeeded in procuring some funds from America. To manage the school they found an instructor who professed to have had training in Poland to teach the deaf. Under these auspices there was opened in 1930 in Tel-Aviv the first Jewish school for the deaf in Palestine, an enterprise which lasted for two years. In the year 1929 there died in Shanghai one Leone A. Levy, who at the age of thirty had become deaf. He left his fortune to the Alliance Israélite Universelle with the request that a school for the deaf be established in a Jewish center. Dr. Salzberger went to Paris and prevailed upon Professor Sylvain Levy, the then president of the Alliance, to found the school in Jerusalem under the direction of a specialist in the education of the deaf from Germany, the present director. It was opened in November 1932 with two pupils. (Höxter, p.118-9)
The influence of German sign Language (DSL) was important on the development of Israeli sign Language. Bamberger met two other Deaf people in Jerusalem, Aryeh Zuckerman, who had also been a pupil at the Berlin School at Weissensee, and a local man, Yehezkel Sella, and they formed the nucleus of the Jewish deaf community in Jerusalem (Meir and Sandler, p.186). Although the Jerusalem school was oralist at first, it seems that when they could the children naturally used sign language (ibid p.198). With contributions from immigrants from different places in Europe and native Deaf people, Israeli sign language had a mixed origin, which makes it interesting as a subject for linguists to study.
We have a document from 1969 by J. Shunary, attached below, which is a brief history of the formation of Israeli sign Language. One of the sources was Zillah Farkash. Neither of those people is mentioned in the index of Meir and Sandler, so perhaps they did not have this document. Shunary says,
it is very difficult to determine which of the original German signs did in fact displace local signs, and which were rejected by the local deaf population as being unsuitable. (For example, one source claims that the signs “not good,” “Jew,” and. “English” were discarded.) Usually the Germen signs, described by one veteran as highly flexible and refined, were accepted as being in accordance with the character of locally used signs. It in therefore probable that there was a process of mutual interaction between local and imported signs, with a resulting trend towards increased refinement and stylization [sic] of newly created signs.
At the end of the 1930’s and in the early 1940’s members of the deaf association customarily met on the Tel Aviv seashore and in a certain cafe on the main road, or in private homes. Although many were illiterate or poorly informed and were not able to obtain much information from the usual channels, this lack did not prevent them from playing important roles in the forming society. The home of three members served as a central meeting place. A central social role was also played by another member, a tailor of limited means. Although illiterate, he was an outstandingly warm host and his house was always crowded with visitors. Another focal meeting place was the home of “Educated” Egyptian-born brother and sister who had recently immigrated from France. Conversation at meetings concerned everyday affairs, work, current events, films they had seen, jokes mimed by a few members with considerable pantomimic talent and a good sense of humor, and naturally, plain gossip too. News items were related to those who were illiterate by the “Educated.” At that time group games as they are played. today were not the custom. However, the Europeans used to invent sketches, and programs were performed for special occasions, religious festivals, etc. A member who was hard of hearing served for some time as producer of these sketches. (Shunary, p.2)
There was also a French Convent School, St. Vincent, of which Höxter says, “In the convent school, deaf, blind and crippled children are under the care and instruction of French nuns. The number of deaf children and the method of instruction are unknown to the writer of this paper, as no visitors are admitted to this convent school.” (p.117)
The third school, was that run by Mary F. Chapman who I have written about with regard to her mission work in Ceylon and Burma. I will come back to that school in a future post.
A Pioneer again goes pioneering. Further work for the deaf and dumb in Palestine. British Deaf Times 1931, p.75
Höxter, Richard, The Deaf and Provision for Their Education in Palestine. American Annals of the Deaf Vol. 82, No. 2 (March, 1937), pp. 117-121
Meir, Irit, and Sandler, Wendy, (2008) A Language in Space: the Story of Israeli Sign Language. Chapter 11, The History of the Deaf Community in Israel p.185-216
Shunary, J., (1969), Social Background of the Israeli Sign Language
By Hugh Dominic W Stiles, on 22 March 2019
Vernon Herbert Jones was born in Islington on the 20th of October, 1882, son of a principal clerk with Thames Conservancy, Herbert Jones, and his wife Hellen Jones. In 1891 the family was living in Highbury Road, and in 1901 in Baalbec Road, which is by Highbury Fields. He went to Highbury College in London, then on to University College, Durham, where he became interested in work with the deaf community, under the influence of Canon Adamson, who had founded the Northumberland and Durham Deaf Mission. perhaps he was also influenced by his own increasing hearing loss. There were other churchmen in his family, the two brothers, Canon Rich Jones who ‘discovered’ the Saxon church at Bradford-on-Avon, and the Rev. Flood Jones, Precentor at Westminster Abbey.
Finishing his degree in 1907, he went to train at the Margate School, was ordained, and in 1910 appointed as Chaplain with the Royal Association in aid of the Deaf and Dumb, a position he held for the next 27 years, at St. Bede’s Clapham and then St. John of Beverley, Finsbury Park. It was his work there getting the building work done that earnt him the name “Godfather of the Deaf and Dumb.” He also edited the Deaf Church periodical, Ephphatha. He was made a Canon of Salisbury in 1945. He was involved in the work of both the B.D.D.A. and the N.I.D., and was a Freemason from 1912.
In 1920 he married Violet Watson (1893-1964) a deaf lady from Stoke Newington, who was according to the 1911 Census, ‘Deaf from birth.’ I do not know where she went to school or if she was privately educated. Vernon Jones collapsed and died in Highgate High Road on Saturday, June the 21st, 1947.
He wrote many articles over the years, including this pamphlet, The Challenge of the Sentry, which highlighted the additional risks that Deaf people were under during wartime, for example in the blackout being unable to hear traffic, and the risk of being shot by a sentry – something that did happen.
A friend of his told a newspaper reporter, “He was one of the country’s greatest experts on the sign language of the deaf. To see him ‘sign’ the Lord’s prayer was a wonderful experience – both for deaf people and for others.” Selwyn Oxley wrote his obituary in The British Deaf Times,
as a preacher we yield to none that he was one of the very best in the Anglican Church, whether in the spoken word or in Deaf Manual signs. he was simple, thoughtful, original, practical, suggestive, and always effective and one never heard him without learning something new and practical.
1891 Census – Class: RG12; Piece: 177; Folio: 142; Page: 41
1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 201; Folio: 12; Page: 15
1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 2243
Violet Watson – 1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 1045
Obituary – The British Deaf Times, 1947, p.82-3
Obituary – Deaf Quarterly News, 1947, p.7
“How doth the little busy bee Improve each shining hour” – Mary Ann Frances Burnell – A Sampler, 1870
By Hugh Dominic W Stiles, on 15 March 2019
Mary Ann Frances Burnell was born in Cosgrove, Northamptonshire, in 1857, daughter of a labourer, William Burnell (aslo Burnal) and his wife, Elizabeth. She was not described as deaf in the 1861 census when she was three, but a later census says she was ‘deaf from birth’ (1891). She had at least one hearing brother and sister surviving, but many more that died very young.
This beautifully done sampler was made by her when she was a pupil at Edgbaston School, which she entered aged 9 in 1867, and left in 1873. It says,
How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour
And gather honey all the day
From every opening flower
Mary Ann Frances Burnell
Aged 14 years 1870
Deaf and Dumb School
It may not surprise you to know that she became a lace-maker – Northamptonshire being famous for its lace at that time. In the 1881 census she was living with her parents in Cosgrove. By the late 19th century however, modern materials and methods of mass manufacture had ruined the old lace-making trade, and she and her mother were working as laundresses, a very tough job. Mary died in Oxfordshire, in 1947, never having married.
I wonder if the sampler came to us via Selwyn Oxley. He went on several mission trips to Oxfordshire and worked there in some capacity for a while on a voluntary basis.
On the left is a list of some of the pupils in the school in 1872. Click onto the image for a larger size. It is possible that we could find her in some of the mission news, but it seems likely that as an adult she was the only Deaf person in her immediate area, and she lived in a village rather than a town where she might have had the company of other Deaf people as she had at school.
The Embroidery & Seamstress pictures come from the 1857 book, An Illustrated Vocabulary Prepared for the use of the Deaf and Dumb.
1881 Census – Class: RG11; Piece: 1537; Folio: 28; Page: 13; GSU roll: 1341370
1891 Census – Class: RG12; Piece: 1189; Folio: 20; Page: 7
1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 1413; Folio: 25; Page: 13
1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 8351; Schedule Number: 79
Free BMD Deaths Mar 1947 Burnell, Mary A F aged 89 Oxford 6b 1242