Dorothy “Dot” Miles, ’61, was a well-known sign language poet, performer, and political activist from Wales. She wrote poems in English, then signed them in British Sign Language and American Sign Language. Last week, Purple Plaques Wales honored her as their 16th “remarkable woman” and installed a purple plaque outside her ancestral home in Rhyl, Denbighshire, Wales. 

Born in 1931, Miles became deaf at age 11 due to meningitis. After completing school and working in Wales for several years, she enrolled at Gallaudet in her mid-20s. She majored in English and was a ubiquitous presence in dramatic productions. After graduation, she returned to Wales, and several years later, returned to the United States to join the newly-established National Theatre of the Deaf. 

Dorothy “Dot” Miles, ’61

According to news reports, Miles was involved in the creation of See Hear, a BBC television show about issues that impacted the Deaf community. She also led several advocacy efforts in Wales and in the United Kingdom to empower deaf and hard of hearing people. 

Miles died in 1993, a year after the opening of the Dorothy Miles Cultural Centre, which honored her work as “a playwright and a key figure in the literary heritage of BSL and the deaf community.” The Centre also engendered the Dot Sign Language advocacy organization. 

Read the BBC article about Dorothy Miles’ Purple Plaque. 

Read about the Purple Plaques campaign. 

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