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Dec 9, 2022
Manuscripts – The Frances M. Parsons Papers, 1938-2013
King Jordan Student Academic Center 1255
Parsons, Frances M. (Margaret), 1923-2013
The Frances M. Parsons Papers, 1938-2013
Gallaudet University Archives
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.
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
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 1. Biographical materials, 1959-2010
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
A small collection of newspaper and magazine clippings, mostly about Parsons or subjects of interest to her.
Series 12. Gifts and awards, 1968-2005
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
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
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.
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