Areas of Study

MSS 207

Parsons, Frances M. (Margaret), 1923-2013
The Frances M. Parsons Papers, 1938-2013

Gallaudet University Archives

Descriptive Summary
Repository: Gallaudet University Archives
Call No.: MSS 207
Creator: Parsons, Frances M. (Margaret), 1923-2013
Title: The Frances M. Parsons Papers, 1938-2013
Quantity: 14 boxes (8 linear feet)
Abstract: Personal papers of deaf author, educator, and world traveler Frances M. Parsons.
Note: This document last updated September 2015.
Administrative Information
Acquisition Information: Assembled from various smaller collections donated to the Archives by Ms. Parsons in the 2010s.
Processed By: Christopher Shea, September 2015.
Processing Note: This material was submitted along with a collection of over 6,000 photographs, mostly unlabeled and unorganized. These photos have not yet been processed.
Conditions on Use and Access: This collection is open to the public with no restrictions, except for series 10, which requires permission to access. Photocopies may be made for scholarly research.
Related Material in the Archives

  • A 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: 194-4

  • Papers of Frances M. Parsons, 1939-1986. Gallaudet University Archives, call number: MSS 049
  • Papers of Frances Margaret Parsons, 1929-2006. Gallaudet University Archives, call number: MSS 161

  • Photograph album of Frances Margaret Parsons. Gallaudet University Archives, call number: AL 85, AL 94
  • Frances M. Parsons [portrait]. Gallaudet University Archives, call number: Portraits

  • Frances Parsons, 1997-2004. Gallaudet University Archives, call number: SMSS
    Vertical Files

  • Parsons, Frances M. Gallaudet University Archives, call number: Deaf Biographical
    Biographical Sketch
    Frances Margaret “Peggie” Parsons and her twin sister, Hester “Polly” Parsons, were born in El Cajon, California, to Harry Parsons and Hester Tancre Parsons. The twins were discovered to be deaf at the age of five. They attended a school for the deaf in Berkeley, California, but when the Great Depression struck the family moved to Tahiti in 1935. They lived there for six years, with the mother homeschooling the girls, but returned to the mainland US when Japan expanded into the Pacific during World War II. Parsons graduated from the Berkeley School for the Deaf in 1943 and then attended Gallaudet College for a few years, but withdrew in 1945 due to ill health.

    In 1945, she also married Vincent Neitzie and had two daughters with him, Valerie West (nicknamed Bunny) and Vincette Dee (nicknamed Vindee). Parsons and Neitzie divorced in 1963, and Frances returned to Gallaudet to complete her education, earning a BA in art history in 1967. During this time, she often traveled abroad to study art. After her graduation, Parsons taught English at the Maryland School for the Deaf and then joined Gallaudet’s Tutorial Center as a tutor in English and Spanish.
    In 1971, Parsons was invited by Gallaudet’s Dr. Mervin Garretson to visit deaf schools in Argentina and see how the deaf were taught there. She was shocked to find that the Argentine schools still used a strict oral approach and that deaf children were frequently mistreated or neglected by their teachers. As a result, she began traveling to deaf schools worldwide to teach about the advantages of manual education over oralism, including visits to the Bahamas, Iran, and India.
    In 1973, Parsons joined Gallaudet’s Art Department as an associate professor of art history, and a year later earned her master’s degree from the University of Maryland. In 1974, she became a Peace Corps consultant and helped to establish a program for deaf Peace Corps volunteers in the Philippines. Two years later, she took a year-long trip through Australia, Asia, and Africa, teaching and lecturing on manual education. Further educational trips throughout Asia, Africa, and Europe followed during the 1970s and 1980s.

    Over the course of her life, Parsonss visited every continent, including Antarctica in 2006 at the age of 83. She published several books inspired by her travels, including Sound of the Stars, a diary of her early life in Tahiti; I Didn’t Hear the Dragon Roar, based on a 1986 trip to China; and “I Dared!”, an essay in the book Deaf Women’s Lives about her educational trips in the 1970s. She also published I Knew Elizabeth Peet: Queen of Gallaudet, a book of memories and anecdotes about Elizabeth Peet.

    Parsons was dismissed from the Art Department in 1988. She then spent five years as Gallaudet’s Coordinator of International History Collections before retiring in 1993. She contributed generously to the Gallaudet University Archives, and also created the Frances M. Parsons International Endowment Fund to support English teachers for the deaf abroad.
    Frances Parsons passed away in December 2013 after being struck by a car.
    Frances’s twin sister, Hester Parsons (1923- ), nicknamed Polly or Pollai, is also represented in this collection with some correspondence and genealogical material. There is also a small amount of material from Frances’s mother, Hester T. (Tancre) Parsons (?-1967). A native of Florida, Hester T. Parsons graduated from San Diego State College in 1927 and taught in San Diego and Arizona.

    Scope and Content
    This collection covers a broad but not deep overview of Parsons’s family life and her interests in education, travel, and sign language. It consists mostly of correspondence on these topics.
    The strongest areas in the collection are those related to Parsons’s family and her writing. There is a great deal of correspondence between Parsons and her daughters, and a smaller amount with her twin sister and mother.
    This collection also includes some early drafts of Parsons’s books, in particular I Knew Elizabeth Peet and “I Dared!” from Deaf Women’s Lives. There are also some attempts at an unpublished book that would have been titled Mum and I, a travel memoir told from the point of view of Parsons’s dog, Rubettee.
    Also present is some material on Parsons’s travels abroad to teach sign education, in particular correspondence between her and teachers of the deaf in Iran, the Caribbean region, Argentina, and the Philippines. There is little material on the content of her lectures on sign education, however.
    Hester Parsons’s charts and books on the history of the Parsons family are extensive and may be of interest to genealogists.

    Series Descriptions

    Series 1. Biographical materials, 1959-2010
    Box 1
    Includes some sketch biographies and CVs of Frances M. Parsons, as well as some personal documentation, including passports and an International Driving Permit. One curious item is a 1976 horoscope by a Sri Lankan astrologer that includes predictions for Parsons’s life until 2001. Also included is a personality analysis chart created by a Scientology personality test (Parsons’s mother was a Scientologist).

    Series 2. Correspondence with family, 1938-2007
    Box 1
    A collection of correspondence and other materials from Parsons, her mother and twin sister, and her daughters and grandchildren. Of particular interest is a folder of stories from Tahiti, with colored pencil drawings, by Hester Parsons; unfortunately, several pages are missing.

    Series 3. Correspondence on properties owned, 1967-2002
    Boxes 1-2
    Most of this series is devoted to two pieces of property, one in the Hobe Sound area of Florida and one in the Lake Tahoe region of California, that were left to Frances and Hester by their mother after her death. These properties were a source of friction between the sisters for several decades, with constant disagreements on the use and sale of the properties. Includes correspondence between the sisters and with lawyers, government officials, potential buyers, and real estate agents, as well as surveyors’ and assessment forms. The Lake Tahoe material also includes correspondence with a Dick Wright, who lived on the land as a tenant for several years.
    Besides the inherited properties, this series also includes a small amount of material on a house Parsons owned in San Diego and the purchase of her DC-area condo.

    Series 4. Other correspondence, 1945-2008
    Boxes 2-3
    Various correspondence with friends, Gallaudet colleagues, and other people in Parsons’s life. Includes a large collection of holiday cards and letters, both Parsons’s own and those from her friends. Also of interest are some letters on Parsons’s withdrawal from Gallaudet in 1945, and a collection of letters and anecdotes about her beloved miniature pinscher, Rubettee.

    Series 5. Correspondence and clippings on educational travel, 1971-2012
    Boxes 3-4
    Material on Parsons’s travels abroad to teach manual education, including correspondence with schools and contact persons; material on Parsons’s work with the Peace Corps, particularly in the Philippines; and clippings from both deaf and mainstream media sources about her travels. Includes a list of “dos and don’ts” Parsons wrote for volunteers on how to avoid offending the locals when traveling to other countries.
    See series 7 for more of Parsons on sign language.

    Series 6. Memorabilia from recreational travel, 1969-2007
    Boxes 4-5
    Maps, diaries, brochures, and more for various trips Parsons took abroad, particularly a cruise to the South Seas in 2002-2003 and her cruise to Antarctica in 2005-2006; includes a travel diary and conversation notebook for the latter. Series 14 includes some DVDs of photographs from Parsons’s trips. Series 7. Correspondence and articles on sign language and deaf culture, 1976-2013Boxes 5-6Parsons was a strong supporter of Total Communication and spoken-language-order signs over pure sign language, and her teaching as she traveled the world reflected her preference. Many of those who preferred pure sign for education disagreed with Parsons’s approach. Parsons became an outspoken critic of pure sign and deaf culture, especially as she grew older. These disagreements led her into conflicts, both public and private, that frequently became bitterly personal. This series includes Parsons’s correspondence and articles she wrote on these issues, as well as on related issues such as cochlear implants (which she supported) and the 2006 Gallaudet protests (which she opposed).

    Series 8. Essays and correspondence on artwork, 1960-2009
    Box 6
    A small collection that consists mostly of some essays that Parsons wrote on various pieces of artwork for the Buff and Blue, as well as some material from her art history studies and teaching.

    Series 9. Writing and publications, 1939-2007
    Boxes 6, 8-9
    Material from books and articles written by Parsons, including manuscripts, proofs, correspondence and contracts with publishers, and slides for book talks. Besides Sound of the Stars, I Didn’t Hear the Dragon Roar, and Deaf Women’s Lives, this series also includes some manuscripts for an unpublished work titled Mum and I, about Parsons’s travels written from the point of view of her dog. Also included is a broadsheet advertisement for You Could Do It Too!, a book about the family’s move to Tahiti by Hester T. Parsons published in 1939.
    Series 14 includes the original word processing files for several of Parsons’s books.

    Series 10. Correspondence and transcripts on termination from Gallaudet, 1982-1989
    Box 7
    This series includes sensitive material, and is closed to access. It may only be viewed with written permission from Gallaudet’s Office of the President or Office of the Provost. While a professor in Gallaudet’s art history department, Parsons had ongoing difficulties with her administrators and coworkers. She was eventually terminated from the position in 1988 and filed a grievance, followed by a civil suit. The material in this series relates to these events and includes correspondence with the members of the art history department, the university administration, and with Alan Banov, the lawyer who represented her during her grievance and lawsuit. It also includes some transcripts related to the grievance and lawsuit.

    Series 11. Clippings, 1968-2012
    Box 9
    A small collection of newspaper and magazine clippings, mostly about Parsons or subjects of interest to her.

    Series 12. Gifts and awards, 1968-2005
    Boxes 9-10
    A collection of award certificates, postcards (unused), autographed books, and some pieces of art that were given to Parsons by friends.

    Series 13. Hester Parsons genealogy materials, 1979-2005
    Boxes 10-12
    Material from Hester Parsons’s research into the history of the Parsons family. Includes a small amount of correspondence and notes, as well as several books of genealogy charts tracing the Parsons family history.

    Series 14. Electronic media, 1980s-2006
    Boxes 13-14
    A collection of VHS videotapes and computer storage media, including DVDs and 3.5″ and 5 ¼” floppy disks. These have not been tested for reliability or content. The VHS tapes include some recordings of Parsons’s art history lectures. The DVDs are mostly of travel photographs, as well as some word processing files from I Knew Elizabeth Peet. The 3.5″ disks include original files for the unpublished “Mum and I,” while the 5 ¼” have the files for I Didn’t Hear the Dragon Roar. Unfortunately, many of these files were created with obsolete software such as WordPerfect and Wordstar.

    Box Folder Title Year(s)
    1 1 Biographical information 1978-2001
    1 2 Horoscope 1975-1976
    1 3 International Driving Permit 1997
    1 4 Monthly planner 1989-1990
    1 5 Passports 1996-2010
    1 6 Personality analysis chart 1959-1960
    1 7 Clippings about Hester Parsons 1975
    1 8 Correspondence on will and trust of Hester T. Parsons 1967-1973
    1 9 Correspondence with daughters and grandchildren 1964-2006
    1 10 Correspondence with Michael Muckerman on great-granddaughter 2005-2007
    1 11 Hester Parsons correspondence 1970-1975
    1 12 Hester Parsons deposition for suit against Donna and Bonnie Bennett 2005
    1 13 Hester Parsons jacket and photos for Road Girl Undated
    1 14 Hester Parsons letters and essays from Tahiti 1938-1945
    1 15 Hester T. Parsons correspondence 1957-1967
    1 16 Correspondence on condo purchase 1974
    1 17 Correspondence on Hobe Sound property 1967-1978
    1 18 Correspondence on Hobe Sound property 1980-1989
    2 1 Correspondence on Hobe Sound property 1990-2002
    2 2 Correspondence on Lake Tahoe property 1967-1996
    2 3 Deeds and statements for purchase and sale of condo 1974-1997
    2 4 Records of sale of house in San Diego 1967-1971
    2 5 Correspondence 1968-2007
    2 6 Correspondence and material on death of Marion Newman 2005-2006
    2 7 Correspondence and stories about dogs 1997-2006
    3 1 Correspondence on divorce settlement 1964
    3 2 Correspondence on will and archives fund 1998-2006
    3 3 Correspondence on withdrawal from Gallaudet 1945
    3 4 Correspondence with Deaf Community Services of San Diego 1989-1990
    3 5 Correspondence with Donna Chitwood 1987
    3 6 Correspondence with Edward Merrill Jr. 1980
    3 7 Correspondence with Eric West 2006
    3 8 Correspondence with Gov. Parris Glendening 2001
    3 9 Correspondence with Hortense Auerbach 1970-1976
    3 10 Correspondence with Jerry Lee 1986-1987
    3 11 Correspondence with Leon Lim on book project 2004-2006
    3 12 Correspondence with Salou Sobrepena 2005
    3 13 Correspondence with Silent News 2001
    3 14 Greeting cards 2004-2008
    3 15 Holiday cards and letters 1973-2005
    3 16 Holiday cards and letters 2005-2006
    3 17 Letter of intent for endowment fund 1995
    3 18 Business cards and contact information for international contacts Undated
    3 19 Clippings and correspondence for Malaysia trip 1976-2004
    3 20 Clippings on foreign travel for deaf education 1975-2003
    3 21 Correspondence and essays on Peace Corps 1975-2012
    3 22 Correspondence and travel documents for Russia trip 2004
    3 23 Correspondence on deaf Peace Corps volunteers 2008-2011
    4 1 Correspondence on foreign sign education and travel 1971-2012
    4 2 Correspondence on Philippines 2006-2007
    4 3 “Dos and don’ts” list Undated
    4 4 Correspondence and photographs on deaf education in Philippines 1977-2012
    4 5 Letter on deaf missionary education 1973
    4 6 Notes from SAID, Philippines 1998
    4 7 Philippine School for the Deaf program and fliers for centennial 2007
    4 8 Photograph of Wallace Pedro Undated
    4 9 Translations of presentation topics Undated
    4 10 Brochures and cards from Hassler Hotel 2005-2007
    4 11 Brochures and correspondence for Antarctica cruise 2005
    4 12 Conversation notebook for Antarctica cruise 2006
    4 13 Correspondence and brochures for South Seas cruise 2002-2003
    5 1 Map for trans-Canada drive Undated
    5 2 Map of New Zealand Undated
    5 3 Outline for trip to Alaska 1980
    5 4 Program and tickets for “Festival du Silence” 2006
    5 5 Thomas Cook travel itineraries for India and Hong Kong 1969
    5 6 Travel diary for Antarctica cruise 2005
    5 7 Travel notes from Egypt 1998
    5 8 Clippings and correspondence on conflicts over signing 1992-1995
    5 9 Clippings on 2006 protests 2006
    5 10 Correspondence and articles on deaf language and culture 2005-2006
    5 11 Correspondence and articles on 2006 presidential search and protests 2006
    5 12 Correspondence and clippings on 2006 protests 2006
    5 13 Correspondence and essays on cochlear implants 2000-2005
    5 14 Correspondence and fliers on Tom Bertling 2002-2005
    6 1 Correspondence on sign language 1990-2005
    6 2 Correspondence on the River School 2002-2005
    6 3 Correspondence with NPR and Newsweek on ASL 2002-2005
    6 4 Essays on signing 1976-2003
    6 5 Monographs for Deaf American 2013
    6 6 Notes and drafts for “Rise and Fall of French Signs” Undated
    6 7 Notes and maps on historical spread of French signing education Undated
    6 8 Open letters 1993
    6 9 Texts and fliers for presentations 2000-2006
    6 10 Correspondence and program for Dalgarno writing contest 2002
    6 11 Correspondence on coordinator of international history collections position 1991-1992
    6 12 Essay on Stonehenge ca. 1960
    6 13 Essays on artwork 1985
    6 14 Itinerary for summer school in Spain 1981
    6 15 Letter of recommendation for Ayman Farghal 2009
    6 16 Sketches and survey for art history course 1985
    6 17 Acronyms for friends 1982-2006
    6 18 Article and photos of early life in Tahiti 1997
    6 19 “Born Deaf and Free” Undated
    6 20 Broadsheet advertisement for Hester T. Parsons’s You Could Do It Too! 1939
    6 21 Copied photos and drawings from I Didn’t Hear the Dragon Roar Undated
    6 22 Correspondence and contract with Gallaudet University Press 1997-2003
    6 23 Correspondence and presentation for Deaf Women’s Lives 2003-2005
    6 24 Correspondence on Deaf Women’s Lives 2005-2006
    6 25 Correspondence on I Knew Elizabeth Peet 2007
    6 26 Correspondence with Vantage Press 1970-1977
    6 27 Critique of The Sound of the Stars Undated
    6 28 Draft of I Dared! 2004
    6 29 Drafts of Mum and I Undated
    6 30 Drawings for Sound of the Stars Undated
    6 31 Excerpts and photos from Sound of the Stars Undated
    6 32 Fliers and photos from book talks 2001-2004
    6 33 Manuscript and correspondence for I Dared! 2004-2005
    7 1 Correspondence with Alan Banov 1988-1989
    7 2 Correspondence with art department and administration 1982-1987
    7 3 Correspondence with art department and administration 1983-1988
    7 4 Melvin Beeman deposition 1989
    7 5 Faculty committee transcript 1988
    8 1 Manuscript for I Knew Elizabeth Peet 2007
    8 2 Manuscript for Mum and I Undated
    8 3 Material from memorial for Paul Setzer 2007
    8 4 Other articles and essays 1997-2004
    8 5 PowerPoint slides for book talk Undated
    8 6 Proof copy of I Dared! 2005
    8 7 Proof copy of I Knew Elizabeth Peet 2007
    8 8 Proof copy of I Knew Elizabeth Peet with corrections 2007
    8 9 Proof copy of I Knew Elizabeth Peet with corrections 2007
    8 10 Revised manuscript of I Knew Elizabeth Peet 2007
    9 1 “The Lady or the Tiger?” 1993
    9 2 Transcript of interview on Deaf Women’s Lives Undated
    9 3 Travel diaries and correspondence for I Dared! 1977-2005
    9 4 Clippings 1968-1999
    9 5 Clippings about self 1970-2012
    9 6 Alpentudl autographed book 1996
    9 7 Anh Vu pen and ink drawings Undated
    9 8 Fanny Yeh notes and art cards 1996-2001
    9 9 Gallaudet University Alumni Emeriti Club program 2005
    9 10 GUAA letter for Edward Miner Gallaudet Award 1977
    9 11 NAD building fund certificate Undated
    9 12 Postcard collection Undated
    9 13 Sign for Singapore autographed book 1993
    9 14 Xiaoning Han and Minxian He paper art and note 2002
    10 1 Hester Parsons charts and correspondence on genealogy 1979-1986
    10 2 Hester Parsons charts and correspondence on genealogy 1984-2005
    10 3 Hester Parsons notes and correspondence on genealogy 1980s
    10 Art plate: La Galette
    11 Hester Parsons genealogy books
    12 Hester Parsons genealogy books
    13 VHS tapes 1984-1989
    14 DVDs, 3.5″ and 5 1/4″ disks 1980s-2006
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