View Our Catalog

Join Our E-Mail List

What's New

Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

Press Home

Women and Deafness: Double Visions

Previous Page

Next Page


1. In this work I focus primarily on larger competitions and the National Association of the Deaf’s Miss Deaf America Pageant, initiated in 1972 in Miami Beach, Florida. To my knowledge, there have been no historical studies of Deaf beauty pageants and very few on Deaf women in general. Much of my work thus owes a debt to scholars in general women’s and gender history. A number of academics have produced excellent works on America’s beauty pageants, and I acknowledge two in particular: I draw heavily from Maxine Leeds Craig’s work, Ain’t I a Beauty Queen? (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), which cogently describes the politics and cultural meaning of African American beauty pageants; I also borrow from the model of interpretation provided by Sarah Banet-Weiser’s The Most Beautiful Girl in the World (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), which reveals the intersection of beauty, citizenship, and national identity.

2. Deaf President Now! (DPN) symbolizes the 1988 protest at Gallaudet University, then the world’s only liberal arts institutions primarily serving deaf and hard of hearing students. DPN activists demanded that the university dismiss its recently elected hearing president and install its first Deaf president. The campaign resulted in the election of I. King Jordan, a Deaf administrator, and symbolically remains the most prominent example of recent Deaf civil rights success.

3. See, for example, Craig, Ain’t I a Beauty Queen?, and Wendy Kline, Building a Better Race (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001).

4. Martin Pernick, The Black Stork (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 60–61.

5. Helena Lorenz Williams, “Health, the Course to Beauty,” Silent Worker 38, no. 3 (1925): 136–37.

6. Elizabeth Cole, “Beauty Is Health Deep,” Silent Worker 39, no. 9 (1927): 340.

7. For more on this, see Susan Burch, Signs of Resistance: American Deaf Cultural History, 1900 to World War II (New York: New York University Press, 2002).

8. For more on the Deaf community and eugenics, see Burch, Signs of Resistance.

9. “Passing” in this sense refers to the ability to be viewed as hearing or otherwise normal.

10. There is anecdotal evidence that national Deaf beauty competitions existed as early as the 1930s, but the official “Miss Deaf America pageant” sponsored by the NAD did not occur until the 1970s. See “Miss Deaf Philadelphia,” Pennsylvania Society News 11, no. 9 (1936): 10, and “Miss America of Deaf 1955 Selected for First Time Here,” July 4, 1955, Washington, D.C., Gallaudet University Archives, Subject file: Beauty Contests.

11. Lloyd Swift Thomas, “Overcoming the Handicap of Deafness,” Silent Worker 32, no. 3 (1919): 59.

12. Helen Heckman, “Dreams that Come True,” Silent Worker 40, no. 7 (1928): 267–68.

Previous Page

Next Page