Challenging Society: Alice Cogswell

by Cliona


The Likeness of 9 year-old Alice Cogswell

The Likeness of 9 year-old Alice Cogswell

Despite a short life, Alice Cogswell led a life well-lived. I admire her greatly because she did not allow society to tell her that being deaf in the 1820’s somehow made you less than human.

Alice was born in 1805, and contracted “spotted fever” (most likely measles or meningitis) at 2 years of age. It removed her ability to speak and hear. Alice’s hearing impairment alienated her from other children.

When she was 9, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet did not see her inability to hear, but her ability to see and learn. He engaged with young Alice by drawing pictures. Through this, he recognized she was not stupid, but merely ignorant and more than capable of learning. Alice was the spark of inspiration that brought education to the deaf. She valued learning, and even attended a hearing school to learn to read and write.

What amazes me is that there must not have been such a thing as interpreters at the time. Learning was so difficult, but Alice worked so hard to become literate. This fierce determination for the deaf to be taught caused Gallaudet to travel to Europe. He brought back a better knowledge of deaf education.

Alice was the first student enrolled in Gallaudet’s “American School for the Deaf” proving to the world that she was an intelligent young woman, not something less than human. Her death came at the age of 20, 6 years after graduating Gallaudet’s school. Alice is amazing simply because she chose to be herself, and challenge society’s beliefs about deaf capabilities.

Comments for Challenging Society: Alice Cogswell

Nov 26, 2014


by: Michelle Jay – Webmaster

Hello Michael,

The image was supplied by the author of this article (a site visitor) and the caption reads that this image is of the ‘likeness’ of Alice Cogswell. We are familiar with this image as well as the sillouette that you mentioned.

God bless,

Michelle Jay

Nov 26, 2014

Wrong picture of Alice Cogswell

by: Michael Olson

The picture of Alice Cogswell on your website is not the person we know. The only image of her is a silhouette. Could you please remove the picture because other people copied and paste to their websites or books. Thank you.

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