MSS 224

Benson, Elizabeth, 1904-1972

The Elizabeth Benson Collection on Lip Reading Education, 1934-1981

Gallaudet University Archives

Descriptive Summary

Repository: Gallaudet University Archives

Call No.: MSS 224

Creators: Benson, Elizabeth, 1904-1972

Title: The Elizabeth Benson Collection on Lip Reading Education, 1934-1981

Quantity: 4 boxes (2 linear feet).

Abstract: Materials for teaching lip reading to adults, collected by Gallaudet professor Elizabeth Benson. Includes lesson plans, tests, reading material, games, and more.

Note: This document last updated April 2018.

Administrative Information

Acquisition Information: Originally given by Elizabeth Benson to Carol Garretson; donated to the Archives by Carol Garretson, 1992.

Processed By: Begun by Corinne Palaia and Michael J. Olson, 2017, and completed by Christopher Shea, April 2018.

Processing Note: Many papers damaged by rusted staples and paper clips, which have been removed.

Conditions on Use and Access: This collection is open to the public with no restrictions.

Related Material in the Archives


  • Benson, Elizabeth E. [multiple photos]. Gallaudet University Archives, call number: Portraits Vertical Files
  • Benson, Elizabeth. Gallaudet University Archives, call number: Deaf Biographical

Biographical Sketch

Elizabeth Benson’s parents were both deaf, so she learned to sign from an early age. She studied at Towson and George Washington Universities and then joined the Gallaudet faculty in 1926, teaching audiology, sign language, and lip-reading. She earned a MA at Gallaudet in the same year, and in 1937 added a law degree at Washington College of Law (later incorporated into American University). During World War II, Benson temporarily left Gallaudet to join the American Women Voluntary Services and the Women’s Army Corps, supporting and educating soldiers who had been deafened during the war. Her contributions to the war effort led to her becoming the first woman in the WAC commissioned as a lieutenant. After the war, in 1950, she became Gallaudet’s dean of women, following Elizabeth Peet. Gallaudet awarded her an honorary doctorate in 1962. Benson was known as a skilled signer and often served as an interpreter for important functions at Gallaudet and elsewhere, including interpreting for Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. She was a co-founder of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and worked as an associate editor of the American Annals of the Deaf.

Benson retired in 1970 after a 44-year career at Gallaudet and passed away in 1972. She is a member of the Gallaudet Hall of Fame, and Benson Hall is named in her honor.

Scope and Content

This collection is devoted to books, lesson plans, exercise materials, and similar items used to teach lip-reading, dating mostly from the mid-1930s to the late 1940s. Given the time covered and the fact that the material seems to be aimed at adult learners rather than children, it is probable that Benson used this collection during her service in the Women’s Army Corps, where she taught lip-reading to veterans whose hearing was damaged or lost during World War II. A few books may have belonged to Carol Garretson, who inherited this collection from Benson before passing it on to the Archives.

Series Descriptions

Series 1. Educational material, 1934-1981

Boxes 1-4

A variety of materials used to teach lip-reading; includes books and booklets on lip-reading published by the Volta Bureau and other institutions, lesson plans, tests and quizzes, and games. Much of the collection consists of training material for lip reading, to be read aloud for practice. This includes short essays on familiar subjects, clipped magazine articles, jokes and anecdotes, movie scripts, and similar materials. Also present are some booklets that were probably used for practice as well, including a book of jokes, another book of unusual facts, a New York City tourist’s guide, a set of transcripts of radio talks on scientific subjects, and a government-produced guide to West Africa.

Of particular interest are a file of handwritten notes on lip reading instruction by Benson, as well as a set of questions and answers that were used in a lip reading championship contest in 1941.

1 1 Bibliographies on lip reading Undated
1 2 Blank postcards from New York City Undated
1 3 Book of facts 1944
1 4 C. F. Kettering radio talk transcripts 1944-1946
1 5 Descriptions of famous places and people Undated
1 6 Game: It Pays to Advertise 1944
1 7 Godfrey-Knight Group Cards for Lip Reading Practice 1934
1 8 Index cards with jokes Undated
1 9 Index cards with reading material Undated
1 10 Jane Walker Stories for Lipreading Practice 1943
1 11 Jane Walker’s Book of Lip Reading Practice Manual 1945
1 12 Lessons for Sight-Hearing Program Undated
2 1 Lip Reading Lessons 3, 5-10 Undated
2 2 Lip Reading Lessons 11-20 1940s
2 3 Lip Reading Lessons 21-24 1940s
2 4 Lip Reading Lessons 25-30 1940s
2 5 Lip Reading Lessons 31-40 ca. 1946
2 6 Lip Reading Lessons for Adult Beginners 1945
2 7 Lip reading texts and contest materials 1941-1958
2 8 Lists of common expressions Undated
2 9 Martha Bruhn lip reading exercises Undated
2 10 New York City souvenir guide Undated
3 1 New Aids and Materials for Teaching Lip Reading 1943
3 2 Notes on lip reading Undated
3 3 Outlines and lesson plans Undated
3 4 Over-Fifty Nifties: Lipreading Practice Manual for Senior Citizens 1975
3 5 Papers and course materials on lip reading 1963-1966
3 6 Pocket guide to West Africa Undated
3 7 Quizzes and games Undated
3 8 “Road to” pronunciation guides 1970-1971
3 9 Scripts for Life Situation Motion Pictures Undated
3 10 Speechreading: A Guide for Laymen 1958
3 11 Speech Reading Stories Undated
4 1 Tom Breneman joke book 1943
4 2 Visual Communication for the Hard of Hearing 1981
4 3 Volta Bureau books of lip reading practice material ca. 1934
4 4 Volta Bureau books of lip reading practice material ca. 1936
4 5 Volta Bureau practice manual Undated

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