MSS 199

Wood, Sharon Kay, 1945-2003

The Sharon Kay Wood Papers, 1884-2003

Gallaudet University Archives

Descriptive Summary

Repository: Gallaudet University Archives

Call No.: MSS 199

Creator: Wood, Sharon Kay, 1945-2003

Title: The Sharon Kay Wood Papers, 1884-2003

Quantity: 16 linear feet (29 document cases, 1 half-case, 1 artifact box)

Abstract: Papers of deaf educator, author, actress, and feminist historian Sharon Kay Wood. Mostly research material and photographs from unpublished volume on biographies of deaf women.

Note: This document last updated October 2014.

Administrative Information

Acquisition Information: Assembled from collections donated by Ms. Wood’s husband, Henning Irgens, after her death.

Processed By: Christopher Shea, October 2014.

Processing Note: Originally two separate donations (papers and photographs) combined into one manuscript group.

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:


· Papers of Sharon K. Wood, 1915-1989. Gallaudet University Archives, Call Number: MSS 131


· Sharon K. Wood [picture]. Gallaudet University Archives, Call Number: Portraits


· Papers, Sharon Wood, 1986-1988. Gallaudet University Archives, Call Number: SMSS

Vertical Files

· Sharon Wood. Gallaudet University Archives, Call Number: Deaf Biographical

Biographical Sketch

Born in Idaho, Sharon Kay Wood contracted meningitis and became deaf at 18 months. She attended several different residential schools for the deaf, finally graduating from Arizona School for the Deaf in 1963 and going on to Gallaudet College.

She graduated in 1968 with a bachelor’s degree in library science, minoring in drama. Ms. Wood was recognized as a talented actress at Gallaudet and did some professional acting, including work with the National Theater of the Deaf and the New York Deaf Theatre. She also taught at many schools for the deaf in Texas, South Carolina, New York (Rome), and KDES in Washington, D.C. Originally, Ms. Wood pursued certification in elementary education, but eventually entered New York University to earn a master’s degree in deaf education. She also became an adjunct professor at NYU, teaching sign language classes there and at other schools.

During this time. Ms. Wood became very interested in the culture, lives, and history of deaf women. She felt that many women’s stories were being overlooked by male deaf historians. In collaboration with Marjoriebelle Holcomb, she wrote and published Deaf Women: A Parade Through the Decades in 1989. Ms. Wood traveled the country, as well as to deaf conferences in other countries, to lecture on the “herstory” of deaf women and on issues facing the deaf women of her day.

Ms. Wood was also interested in the history of deaf Native Americans. Her second book, Step Into the Circle (with Damara Paris), published in 2002, was an anthology of stories, biographies, and artwork by and about deaf Native Americans.

Ms. Wood passed away in May 2003.

Scope and Content

The bulk of this collection is related to two of Ms. Wood’s writing projects. The first, accumulated between 1995 and 2000, is a collection of biographical information and photographs of prominent deaf women, mostly Ms. Wood’s contemporaries. This material was intended to become a sequel to Ms. Wood and Marjoriebelle Holcomb’s Deaf Women: A Parade Through the Decades, but the book was never published.

The other writing project is a collection of research into Native American culture and biographical material on deaf Native Americans. This became the basis of Ms. Wood’s second book, Step Into the Circle.
The remainder of the collection includes speech texts and transparencies from Ms. Wood’s time as a speaker, as well as some material from her teaching career, mostly syllabi and class guides from her ASL classes. It also includes some general writing and correspondence, VHS tapes, and a few pieces of memorabilia.

Series Descriptions

Series 1. Correspondence and drafts for deaf women book project, 1992-2000

Boxes 1-2

After the success of their Deaf Women: A Parade Through the Decades, Ms. Wood and Marjoriebelle Holcomb began work in the mid-90s on a sequel. Their plan was to collect information on prominent deaf women and write short biographies for each. DawnSignPress expressed an interest in publishing the result. The project went through several different titles, but was eventually called the Biographical Dictionary of Deaf Women.

Due to health problems, Ms. Holcomb withdrew from the project after a few years. Ms. Wood’s husband, Henning Irgens, took her place. Ms. Wood and Mr. Irgens eventually amassed biographical records on hundreds of deaf women with histories and photographs collected by mail, email, and fax. However, they found difficulty in organizing the material and creating a system of categorization for the various entries. The project became too unwieldy and, after disagreements with DawnSignPress, was abandoned in 2001.

This series includes correspondence between Ms. Wood and various interested parties, including her collaborator Marjoriebelle Holcomb, her editors Cynde Hale and Marla Hatrak, and other people at DawnSignPress. It also includes lists and draft profiles of the women profiled, some attempts at creating outlines for the project, and a complete draft manuscript of a Biographical Dictionary of Deaf Women.

A parallel project, a video titled Deaf Women in Profile, was intended to be an introduction to deaf women’s culture for outsiders, based on Ms. Wood’s work. It was never filmed but some material related to it can be found in this series.

See series 2-4 for more on this project.

Series 2. Deaf women biographies, correspondence, and research, 1884-2001

Boxes 3-16

A collection of Ms. Wood’s research on the lives of deaf women for her book project. Arranged alphabetically by surname.

Includes notes, articles, short biographies, and correspondence. Subjects were often asked to write 60-word blurbs about themselves for inclusion in the book. Some questionnaires that were sent out early in the process are also included, but Ms. Wood seems to have abandoned the questionnaire method early on.

See series 1 and 3-4 for more on this project.

Series 3. Deaf women photographs, undated

Boxes 16-23

Photographs of the women that Ms. Wood intended to write about for her book project. Arranged alphabetically by surname.

Most of the photographs are personal snapshots donated by the subjects themselves, and are often accompanied by notes or short letters from the subjects. A few of the photos, mostly those of deceased and/or more famous subjects, are clipped from newspapers or magazines.

This series also includes collections of unnamed and named but unsorted photos, as well as a small collection of slides.

See series 1-2 and 4 for more of this project.

Series 4. Time lines, 1997

Boxes 24-25

Collections of biographical blurbs of deaf women written by Ms. Wood, arranged chronologically and by topic. While the purpose of these is not clear, they may represent possible ways to arrange the subjects of the deaf women book project.

Series 5. Step Into the Circle correspondence and research, 1946-2002

Boxes 25-27

Material on deaf Native Americans collected by Ms. Wood during her work on Step Into the Circle. Includes correspondence between Ms. Wood and various deaf Native Americans, yearbooks and newsletters published by schools for the deaf in Native areas, and some material from Native groups such as the Intertribal Deaf Council.

Series 6. Other correspondence and writings, 1977-2001

Boxes 27-28

A collection of other material produced by Ms. Wood, such as correspondence, columns and articles, postcards, and resumes. Of particular interest is a notebook in which she wrote down English idioms she encountered so she could look up their meanings later.

Series 7. Speeches and presentations, 1986-2003

Boxes 28-29

Material related to Ms. Wood’s speeches at various workshops, conferences, commencements, and other events. Most of this material is on topics related to deaf women. Includes programs, texts of Ms. Wood’s speeches, attendee kits, projection transparencies, and papers issued by other presenters at the events.

Series 8. Teaching materials, 1988-2000

Box 29

A small collection of material from Ms. Wood’s teaching career, mostly from her time at KDES and her sign language classes. Includes syllabi, curriculum guides, and some correspondence.

Series 9. Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind records, 1991-2003

Box 29

The bulk of this series consists of by-laws, minutes, and correspondence from the ASDB alumni association. Also includes some correspondence and articles about the ASDB “Sentinel” mascot, which many Native Americans found offensive.

Series 10. VHS tapes, 1993-1999

Box 30

Most tapes in this set are labeled with the names of various deaf women, and may be recordings of interviews gathered during the book project (see series 1-4).

Series 11. Other items, 1942-2002

Box 31

A set of artifacts collected by Ms. Wood, including a December 1942 issue of Life magazine with photos of a deaf woman signing the national anthem; a set of commemorative pens and pencils from deaf schools and events; and two tote bags from Intertribal Deaf Council conferences.

Series Descriptions and Folder Lists

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