MSS 49 – Parsons, Frances Margaret, 1923-

Papers of Frances M. Parsons, 1939-1986

Gallaudet University Archives

Descriptive Summary

Repository: Gallaudet University Archives

Call No.: MSS 49


Title: Papers of Frances M. Parsons, 1939-1986.

Quantity: 1.5 Linear Feet (3 document boxes)


Note: This document last updated 2006 January 6.

Administrative Information

Acquisition Information: The Frances M. Parsons papers were given to the Gallaudet University Archives by Frances M. Parsons. The gifts were made periodically from 1979-1989.

Processed by: Michael Olson. 1987 January 9.

Processing Note:

Conditions on Use and Access: This collection is open to the public with no restrictions. Photocopies may be made for scholarly research.

Related Material in the Archives:

Deaf Film

  • Sense of wonder, a sense of worth [motion picture]. Gallaudet University Archives, Call Number: Deaf Film 17-6
  • [Teaching total communication in Trinidad] [motion picture]. Gallaudet University Archives, Call Number: Deaf Film 194-4


  • Photograph album of Frances Margaret Parsons [picture]. Gallaudet University Archives, Call Number: Photograph Album AL 85, 94
  • Frances M. Parsons [picture]. Gallaudet University Archives, Call Number: Portraits


  • Frances Parsons, 1997-2004. Gallaudet University Archives, Call Number: SMSS

Vertical Files

  • Frances M. Parsons. Gallaudet University Archives, Call Number: Deaf Biographical

Biographical Sketch

Frances Margaret Parsons, affectionately known as Peggie, was born at El Cajon, California on September 25, 1923. Her deafness was discovered when she was 5 years old in 1928. In 1931, Frances attended a school for the deaf at Berkeley with her twin sister, Hester.

In 1935, Frances and her family moved to Tahiti, South Pacific to escape the Great Depression. They spent six years in the Tahitian Islands where Frances received an informal education, tutored by her mother.

When in 1941 the United States declared war with Japan and the Japanese occupation of the Pacific began, the Parsons family managed to escape via a sailing schooner to San Francisco. After the adventurous trek to California, Frances and Hester returned to the California School for the Deaf at Berkeley where Frances graduated in 1943.

Frances matriculated to Gallaudet College (now Gallaudet University) in 1943, but in 1945 she withdrew to marry and raise two daughters, Vincette Dee and Valerie West in California.Frances returned to Gallaudet College in 1964 to complete her studies, receiving a Bachelor’s of Art degree in Art History in 1967. During her college years, between 1965 and 1967, Frances did independent study in art, archaeology, and sculpture traveling to Paris, Italy, London, Ireland, Spain, and Greece. In the fall of 1967, Frances taught English at the Maryland School for the Deaf in Frederick. Within a year she was offered a tutoring position in the tutorial center at Gallaudet.

She returned to tutor in both English and Spanish from 1968 to 1973.

After five years of tutoring she moved on the Art Department where she taught History of Art until 1988.

She was then employed as Coordinator of International History Collections at Gallaudet University where she worked for five years until her retirement in 1993.Again, Frances studied abroad in 1969, touring Egypt, India, Cambodia and Turkey. Also, in 1971 and 1973, she had gone to Guatemala, Peru, Bolivia, Russia and Israel.

She continued to study in France, England, and other countries. While traveling abroad she visited the schools for the deaf and saw that the students were in a great need of good education and communication skills. In 1971 Frances decided to go to Argentina first to spread the Total Communication Philosophy to the deaf community. From that time, she traveled widely, specifically the Bahamas, Iran, and India between 1972 and 1975.Frances became involved with the Peace Corps establishing a program for deaf volunteers in the Philippines in 1974.

At the beginning of 1976, she started a year long trip to the Middle East, Far East, Asia, and Africa which included Iran, India, Singapore, Ceylon, Thailand, Hong Kong, Australia, Africa, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Taiwan and the Philippines. Frances taught sign language from the NAD ABC signs and translated that work into Spanish while giving numerous presentations and workshops on Total Communication. She ended her trip in late December of that year.

Frances continued to travel in 1977 and 1978 to the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea and Africa as a Peace Corps Professional Participant. She traveled to Great Britain, Scotland, Wales and Ireland in the summer of 1979. In 1980 she traveled to West, Central and East Java and Indonesia, giving lectures, workshops, and conferences about Total Communication. In 1981 she did the same in South Africa.

In the summer of 1985, Frances traveled to the West Indies where she taught sign language. She traveled to China in the summer of 1986.Associate Professor Parsons received numerous honors and awards for her successful trip: opening the doors of the world to Total Communication for deaf people. In 1977 the Board of Directors of Gallaudet College honored Frances with a commendation for her work in foreign countries.

In 1971 Frances authored, “Sound of the Stars,” a diary in which she relates her experiences while living in Tahiti for six years. She has also written many articles related to her various trips as well as three books: “I didn’t Hear the Dragon Roar,” “Deaf Women’s Lives,” and “I Knew Elizabeth Peet: Queen of Gallaudet.”

In 1974 Frances received a Master’s degree from University of Maryland. Her thesis was titled, “Problems of Teaching Art History to the Deaf at the College level.”

Scope and Content

The Frances M. Parsons Papers consist of articles, clippings, diaries, letters, reports, resumes and a scrapbook. Ms. Parsons is presently a lecturer of Art History at Gallaudet University where she has taught since 1973. Professor Parsons is known as an “ambassador” to the deaf world where she has been traveling around to spread the Total Communication to the deaf people.

The collection, which consists of approximately 2,500 pages, dates from 1939 1986. The bulk of the collection consists of diaries, articles and clippings. Ms. Parsons wrote her diaries about her trips between 1974 and 1977. Also, there are some materials in this collection related to the Peace Corps in which Ms. Parsons participated. In the collection are two tapes of interviews while she was in South Africa and Australia in 1976. Ms. Parsons wrote several articles on her trips and also on Total Communication. One interesting item in this collection is a clipping about Parsons’ escapade from Tahiti to San Francisco in 1941.

Series Descriptions and Folder Lists

No Series

Box Folder Title of Folder Date
1 01 Articles about Frances M. Parsons 1971‑1981
1 02 Articles written by Ms. Parsons 1958‑1978
1 03 Articles‑‑China Trip 1986
1 04 Awards 1977
1 05 Biography 1966‑1968
1 06 Clippings 1971‑1977
1 07 Clippings 1980‑1983
1 08 Clippings‑‑India Trip 1976
1 09 Clippings‑‑Indonesia 1981
1 10 Clippings‑‑Sign Language Workshop 1979
1 11 Clippings‑‑Singapore 1984
1 12 Clippings‑‑South Africa 1981
1 13 Clippings‑‑Television Appearances 1977
1 14 Clippings‑‑Trip from Tahiti to San Francisco 1941
1 15 Diary‑‑China Trip 1986
1 16 Diary‑‑Philippines 1974
1 17 Diary‑‑Philippines, Iran 1974
1 18 Diaries‑‑Middle East, Far East, Africa & Australia (Part 1) 1976
1 19 Diaries‑‑Middle East, Far East, Africa & Australia (Part 2) 1976
1 20 Diaries‑‑Middle East, Far East, Africa & Australia (Part 3) 1976
2 01 Diaries‑‑Middle East, Far East, Africa & Australia (Part 4) 1976
2 02 Diaries‑‑Far East and Asia (Typed) 1976
2 03 Diaries‑‑Philippines, South Korea, Thailand and Malaysia (Peace Corps) 1977
2 04 Letters 1972‑1977
2 05 Letters re: Lectures 1977‑1984
2 06 Letters‑‑Edwards, Fern 1975‑1976
2 07 Letters‑‑Peace Corps 1978‑1979
2 08 Letters of Recommendation 1974‑1982
2 09 Miscellaneous 1974‑1986
2 10 Peace Corps 1980‑1985
2 11 Peace Corps‑‑Africa 1977‑1978
2 12 Peace Corps‑‑Correspondence 1977‑1984
2 13 Peace Corps‑‑Letters about Ms. Parsons 1977‑1984
2 14 Peace Corps‑‑Letters of Request from Peace Corps Volunteers 1975‑1978
2 15 Peace Corps‑‑Philippines 1974‑1980
2 16 Peace Corps‑‑S. E. Asia & South Korea 1977
2 17 Photographs
3 01 Photographs‑‑Slides of Iran 1977
3 02 Publication‑‑”Sound of the Stars” 1971‑1981
3 03 Report‑‑Trinidad & Tobago Schools for the Deaf 1985
3 04 Reports, Articles & Clippings‑‑Bahamas 1973‑1981
3 05 Resumes 1974
3 06 Scrapbook 1939‑1940
3 07 Tape Interview‑‑Swaziland Broadcasting Service 1976
3 08 Tape Interview‑‑Sydney, Australia 1976
3 09 Transcript of Radio Controversy Talk between Ms. Parsons and Prof. Daniel Ling 1976

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