The Life and Times of T. H. Gallaudet

Edna Edith Sayers

Edna Edith Sayers has written the definitive biography of T. H. Gallaudet (1787–1851), celebrated today as the founder of deaf education in America. Sayers traces Gallaudet’s work in the fields of deaf education, free common schools, literacy, teacher education and certification, and children’s books, while also examining his role in reactionary causes intended to uphold a white, Protestant nation thought to have existed in New England’s golden past. Gallaudet’s youthful social and political entanglements included involvement with Connecticut’s conservative, state-established Congregational Church, the Federalist Party, and the Counter-Enlightenment ideals of Yale (where he was a student). He later embraced anti-immigrant, anti-abolition, and anti-Catholic efforts, and supported the expatriation of free African-Americans to settlements on Africa’s west coast. As much a history of the paternalistic, bigoted, and class-conscious roots of a reform movement as a story of one man’s life, this landmark work will surprise and enlighten both the hearing and Deaf worlds.

Cloth: $29.95 | E-book: $24.99
ISBN-13: 9781512600513
Pages: 328 | Size: 6.25 in. x 9.25 in.
Date Published: November 7, 2017


  • Sayers . . . takes a different approach than the usual "born-studied-mastered-married-parented-died" biographical formula, and delves deeper into Gallaudet’s political and religious leanings, shining light into a perhaps lesser-known side of his character. Gallaudet was a mirror of his times, and his involvement in the Congregational Church, the Federalist Party, and various social and political causes is explored. . . . Of value to those interested in Deaf culture and disability studies in general.

    Library Journal
  • The research is impressive. . . . [Sayers’s] writing is engaging, her literary references illuminating, and, most of all, her arguments provocative. The blending of Gallaudet’s achievements-notably the advocacy of signing, the establishment of the school for the deaf, and the pedagogy of whole word reading-with emphatic bigotry is one scholars cannot ignore.

    New England Quarterly
  • Displaying a rare combination of erudition and wit, Sayers’s wonderful book is replete with keen insights into the life and times of Thomas H. Gallaudet. . . . I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed reading a work of history as much as I did this one.

    Douglas Baynton
    University of Iowa
  • An extraordinary addition to Deaf studies. Students and scholars no longer need to rely on oversimplified retellings. . . . We now have Sayers’s impressively researched guide through the complexities and nuances of the time and the man. This is a must-read for anyone serious in their interest in Deaf history.

    H-Dirksen L. Bauman
    Gallaudet University
  • With this important historical retrieval and revision, Sayers changes the way we think about Deaf history and the experience of deafness in America. Sayers gives us a full and rich picture of the world in which T. H. Gallaudet did his work and came to be the person we think of as a great man today. . . . But the real contribution of this story is the revelation of the interdependent relations and complicated positions of Gallaudet’s life and work that call into question the very idea of an independent great man.

    Rosemarie Garland-Thomson
    Emory University

About the Author

Edna Edith Sayers

Edna Edith Sayers was a professor of English at Gallaudet University, the famous school for the deaf. She has edited two anthologies: one of Deaf activist writers and another of deaf characters in literature.

Other Recent Titles

Environmental Futures

Edited by Caren Irr

On James Baldwin

Colm Tóibín

Chaim Weizmann

Jehuda Reinharz and Motti Golani, Translated by Haim Watzman

CASE 3.1 Engage or Divest?: Trillium Asset Management, Facebook Governance, and Shareholder Advocacy

Monique DeSimone , Jess Lynch-Foust, Douglass Guernsey, and Laura Burroughs

CASE 2.2 The Kindness of Human Milk: The Founding of Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast

Naomi Bromberg Bar-Yam and Mark Rosen