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The early 1900s saw a country shifting from an agricultural to an industrial economy. People were moving from rural farmlands to urban cities for work. Two world wars created a huge demand for ships, vehicles, weapons, and many other industrial products, so factory work was plentiful
Like women and minority groups, deaf people found wartime jobs in large numbers. This concentration of deaf people in cities provided the opportunity to build social clubs, church groups, sports organizations, and alliances that would foster community life.
Gallaudet University Archives, Benjamin M. Schowe, Sr. Collection
In most cities, deaf people established clubs that became centers for social life. Some clubs owned their buildings, but most made do with a rented clubroom over a downtown store or bar. A "Deaf club" was more than a place for card games and conversation....
During World War I & II, deaf people found jobs in industries throughout the country. In Arkon, Ohio, the Goodyear and Firestone tire and rubber companies recruited hundreds of deaf workers. By 1920 nearly 1,000 deaf employees were in the Goodyear and Firestone plants. But...
Through an ever-growing variety of organizations-including state and national associations, alumni groups, literary clubs, churches, and conventions of all sorts-deaf people formed links in their own communities and across the nation. Gatherings were a chance to share news, discuss changes in schools, raise money, and...
Movies and television have reflected and shaped public perceptions of deaf people and other minority groups. From 1902 until 1986, according to one historian's account, over 150 movies and network TV programs had deaf characters. Until recently, these characters were rarely played by deaf actors,...
War had an impact on deaf children as well, as some schools patterned routines and dress codes in military fashion. Boys wore uniforms and carried rifles during marching drills. Uniforms allowed boys from wealthy and financially struggling families to dress alike. Just as in the...
In the 1920s, as the number of cars on the road increased, state legislatures began to enact motor vehicle laws. At least four states refused to grant driver's licenses to deaf people, and more were considering such laws. The National Association of the Deaf formed...
Deaf people who found jobs in Akron created an active and visible community. The "Silent Colony" supported clubs, church groups, amateur sports, and company sponsored teams. The Goodyear Silents, a semi-professional football team, was a particular source of pride to deaf residents of Akron. The...
Deaf people could not serve in the military, but like other civilians contributed on the homefront. They made blankets, packaged bandages, raised funds, and gave blood. Volunteers knit scarves, socks, and sweaters. Deaf Americans also attended rallies to support U.S. soldiers, helped paper drives, and...
During World Wars I and II, male industrial workers leaving their jobs for the military created employment opportunities for women and minorities, including deaf people. Deaf employees established impressive work records and supported the war effort in industries producing military products such as gas masks,...
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