Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Riverside

UC Riverside Electronic Theses and Dissertations bannerUC Riverside

Sophia Fowler Gallaudet, Eliza Boardman Clerc, and Deaf Domesticity: A Case Study of Intersections of Gender and Disability in the Nineteenth Century United States


The nineteenth century brought significant cultural changes for the United States. In addition to changing religious ideals, shifting gender roles, and educational reform, perspectives on disability began to transform. Particularly within Presbyterian circles, Deafness was a target for rehabilitation. The founding of the Connecticut Asylum for the Instruction of Deaf and Dumb Persons provided a new opportunity for wealthy, white d/Deaf people to learn the then newly created American Sign Language. Some of the first students enrolled included Sophia Fowler and Eliza Boardman, two women who received formal education and fulfilled the roles expected of women during their lifetime by becoming wives and mothers. Previously, disabled women were prevented from doing any of this. This project relies on methodologies associated with biography, critical disability studies, and gender history to use the lived and documented experiences of Fowler and Boardman as case studies for how cultural and social shifts related to disability and gender allowed space for d/Deaf women to challenge gender roles and perspectives on disability in the nineteenth century US.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View