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Dec 9, 2022
Manuscripts – The Elizabeth Benson Collection on Lip Reading Education, 1934-1981
King Jordan Student Academic Center 1255
Benson, Elizabeth, 1904-1972
The Elizabeth Benson Collection on Lip Reading Education, 1934-1981
Gallaudet University Archives
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.
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
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 1. Educational material, 1934-1981
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.
Gallaudet University, chartered in 1864, is a private university for deaf and hard of hearing students.
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