History Through Deaf Eyes – Home Away from Home

Thousands of young deaf people came to residential schools to live and study together. A new culture was born, enriched by each passing generation that came to include folklore, poetry, oratory, games, and jokes, as well as distinctive rules of etiquette and sign naming practices.

The language that would be known as American Sign Language in the late 20th century was becoming more standardized. From this common language and common experience arose an American Deaf Community.

Before most families had automobiles, many deaf children took the train to school. Some remember wearing a note pinned to their clothes asking the conductor to put them off at the correct stop.

Here, Anna Schuman, far right, leaves home in Little Falls, Minnesota, in 1916 to catch a train for the Minnesota School for the Deaf in Faribault. Also shown are her mother, father, aunt, and sister.

Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf c. 1916

Anna Schuman and family

Deaf children often had to travel great distances to school. Some stayed for nine months of the year, returning home only during summers.

Ivy Stewart Shipman, a 1916 graduate of the Missouri School for the Deaf, used this trunk to bring her belongings — dresses, combs, nightclothes, and two dolls with her to school.

Collection of the Missouri School for the Deaf

Doll's clothing trunk made in 1905