Agatha Tiegel Hanson is a seminal figure in Deaf history, and this biography illuminates her many contributions as a writer, activist, and leader working to advance the rights of Deaf people and women.
Agatha Tiegel Hanson (1873-1959) is regarded as a seminal figure in Deaf history for her writing, advocacy, and leadership, though her accomplishments merit recognition within the larger context of American history as well. Barely fifteen years old in 1888, Tiegel Hanson became one of the first women to attend the nation's only college for Deaf students, the National Deaf-Mute College, now known as Gallaudet University. Amid the hostility and skepticism of male students and faculty, she achieved exemplary academic success and was the first woman to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree from the college. Upon facing stringent campus restrictions and exclusion from male-only organizations and activities, Tiegel Hanson cofounded a society for female students. Her prerequisite graduation presentation, "The Intellect of Woman," was a powerful oratory that urged women to “move on till all barriers crumble and fall.”
Throughout her life, Agatha Tiegel Hanson worked to advance the rights of Deaf people and women, and she was a passionate advocate of sign language rights. Her contributions include creative written works as well as influential treatises. She served in leadership positions at several Deaf organizations and, along with her husband, noted Deaf architect Olof Hanson, she played a vital role in the Deaf cultural life of the time. In Agatha Tiegel Hanson: Our Places in the Sun, author Kathy Jankowski presents a portrait of this trailblazer, and celebrates her impact on the Deaf community and beyond. This biography will be of interest to those already familiar with Tiegel Hanson’s legacy as well as to readers who are discovering her extraordinary life for the first time.
Kathy Jankowski is a former dean of Gallaudet University’s Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center. She was previously the first Deaf and first female superintendent of the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf and the Central North Carolina School for the Deaf. Jankowski has also been a communications professor, a program director at a nonprofit advocacy organization, a school counselor, and an American Sign Language instructor. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Gallaudet University, a master’s degree from the University of Arizona, and a doctorate from the University of Maryland. She is also the author of Deaf Empowerment: Emergence, Struggle, and Rhetoric, and has published chapters and articles in books and other publications.
“Agatha Tiegel Hanson: Our Places in the Sun is an impressively researched biography that shines new light on the ‘experiment’ of coeducation at Gallaudet University as well as on the courage of Agatha, who created ‘room and light in which to grow’ for generations of Deaf women to come. This richly contextualized portrayal makes a significant contribution as a social history and a history of Deaf people during the years of this trailblazing woman’s life. This compelling work is CHAMP! It makes me STOMP, STOMP, STOMP my feet in applause!”— Karen (KC) Christie, Associate Professor Emerita, Rochester Institute of Technology
“Kathy Jankowski frames Agatha Tiegel Hanson as a most phenomenal and visionary deaf woman on all fronts—pioneer, ardent suffragist and feminist, and lifetime deaf activist and advocate—yet portrays her as a genuine human who was a mother, wife, grandmother, and friend who loved deaf clubs and socials to her very last day. I still remember my visit with Agatha when I was probably around the age of five. My mother said to me, ‘She is a very important person, you must go with me and meet her.’ As Dr. Jankowski states in her preface, we all have the responsibility to take our ‘places in the sun’ and carry on Agatha’s legacy. A great read!”— Astrid Amann Goodstein, former president of the Maryland Association of the Deaf and the Arizona Association of the Deaf; retired professor and administrator at Gallaudet University