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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Illusions of Equality
Deaf Americans in School and Factory, 1850-1950

Robert M. Buchanan

Read the introduction.
Read an excerpt from chapter six.
Read reviews: Choice, The Journal of American History.

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$49.95 e-book

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From Choice

Buchanan thoughtfully explores the plight of deaf Americans, a group generally ignored even in studies of social movements. Focusing on the period between the mid-point of the 19th and 20th centuries, Buchanan highlights the often-painful experiences of deaf men and women who sought to enter the workforce. In the process, they confronted all sorts of impediments, including many resulting from well-intentioned but paternalistic people. Most damaging of all, Buchanan convincingly argues, was the favoring by countless governmental and educational administrators of oral communication over sign language, something resisted by many deaf people and their champions. Gender and racial considerations also came into play, as deaf individuals of color and those who were female had additonal hurdles to overcome. The auhtor acknowledges that daf leaders were sometimes divided among themselves regarding the role government should play in affording employment opportunities, while pointing to incomplete reform efforts undertaken in a state like early-20th-century Minnesota and by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. The marked success of deaf workers in industrial plants during WWII refuted theories regarding their purportedly limited abilities in the workplace. Recommended for all readers.

—R.C. Cottrell, California State University, Chico

Robert M. Buchanan is a member of the faculty at Goddard College.

Print Edition: ISBN 978-1-56368-549-1, 6 x 9 paperback, 232 pages, 16 photographs


E-Book: ISBN 978-1-56368-259-9


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