Deaf Women in History – International Women’s Day

Yesterday was International Women’s Day! It also happens to be Deaf History Month, so let’s take a look at three amazing Deaf women that made an extraordinary impact! 


Juliette Gordon Low, via

Juliette Gordon Low

Did you know that the founder of the Girl Scouts was deaf? Julliette Gordon Low became deaf in early adulthood, but that never stopped her! After moving to England with her husband she became fascinated with the Girl Guides: a group dedicated to teaching young girls first aid, cooking, and other skills like tying knots. She founded several Girl Guides groups while living in England, and eventually moved back to the states (bringing a love of the Guides with her!). She founded the very first American Girl Guides group in her hometown of Savannah, Georgia- this was the foundation of the modern Girl Scouts (and their famous cookies, of course!). 

Helen Keller, c1920, via Wikipedia




Helen Keller

Helen Keller was born both blind and deaf and learned Sign Language thanks to her teacher, Anne Sullivan. She went on to become the first deafblind individual to earn a bachelor of arts degree, and acted as an advocate for women’s rights. In addition to women’s suffrage, she campaigned for labor rights, anti-militarism, and socialist policies. She traveled to twenty-five different countries to advocate for the deaf, and helped to found the Americans Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). She was famously friends with both Charlie Chaplin and Mark Twain. 


Matlin receiving a Motion Pictures Star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2009, via Wikipedia

Marlee Matlin

Marlee Matlin is a Deaf actress and the only deaf individual to win an Academy Award, from her role in Children of a Lesser GodShe lost the majority of her hearing due to a malformed cochlea (an organ in the ear) before the age of two, and is the only deaf person in her family. Matlin appeared in several TV shows, including reccurring roles in Blue’s CluesThe West Wing, and Switched at Birth. She also has several brief appearances in shows such as Seinfeld, ER, and Law & Order: SVU.

In addition to her film career she is a prominent member of the National Association of the Deaf and regularly advocates for deaf rights, which we are still dealing with today. Matlin is also the author of four books, including I’ll Scream Later (autobiography) and the fiction work Deaf Child Crossing.