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Trailblazers in the Deaf Community: Famous Women

International week of the deaf logo

Women have always held an important role in the lives of many people throughout the ages, but it has only been 150 years or so that famous deaf women have come to the forefront of societyThe biographies of these ten amazing women trailblazers in the deaf community are nothing short of miraculous. They each have special qualities that have propelled them further than others.  

Helen Keller (June 27, 1880June 1, 1968) 

Helen Keller was born June 27, 1880 in Tuscumbia, Alabama. Helen had a serious illness when she was one that led to her becoming blind and deaf. She was able to overcome her disabilities through hard work and gained international importance in helping others to live fuller lives. When she was young, her father took her to see Alexander Graham Bell and he suggested writing to the Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston. The school sent Anne Sullivan, a teacher from the school to teach Helen to communicate. Before this time, Helen was only able to kick, giggle, act wild, and scratch to communicate. Through Ms. Sullivan’s help, she was able to contact Helen through the sense of touch. Anne used a manual alphabet to help her spell out words on her hands. Objects connected to words and words became sentences. In just a few short years, Helen was able to understand the alphabet, read, and write in braille.  

By the time Helen was 16, she was able to speak and communicate, so she went to school and eventually college. She went to Radcliffe College and graduated with honors in 1904. Anne Sullivan stayed with Helen most of her life and interpreted lectures and discussions. After college, Helen helped the blind and deaf. She wrote books, lectures, and articles about and secured funding from the wealthy to start the Helen Keller Endowment Fun. She was active in the American Foundation for Overseas Blind and the American Foundation for the Blind. 

Helen wanted to better the conditions for the blind and deaf over her lifetime. She talked to over 25 countries around the world about improving conditions for people which included the condition during World War II. Helen received many awards over her lifetime which include Chevalier’s ribbon of the French Legion of Honor, and the Alumni Achievement Award of Radcliffe College.  Keller died on June 1, 1968.  

Here are some e-Books that can be checked out from Hoopla! 

Helen Keller: The Story Of My Life by Helen Keller 

The World I Live In And Optimism by Helen Keller 

Helen Keller by Tamara Leigh Hollingsworth (Spanish) 

Optimism by Helen Keller 

Here are some books that can be checked out from the catalog! 

Helen Keller A Life by Dorothy Herrmann 

Helen Keller Author and Advocate for the Disabled by Deborah Kent 

Helen Keller Miracle Child by Audrey Peck 

Helen Keller Her Life In Pictures by George Sullivan 

Helen Keller Lighting the Way for the Blind and Deaf by Carin Ford 

Check out some websites about Helen Keller! 

Helen Keller’s Life on 

Helen Keller’s life on (American Foundation for the Blind) 

Juliette Gordon Low (October 31, 1860 – January 17, 1927) 

Juliette Gordon Low was born October 31, 1860 in Savannah, Georgia. She was the founder of the Girl Scouts in America. Juliette married William M. Low and lived in England, Scotland, and the United States. While she was in England, she became friends with Sir Robert and Lady Baden-Powell which were the founders of Scouting. She started the Girl Guides troop on her estate in GlenlyonScottland. In 1912, she started a patrol in Savannah, Georgia upon returning to the United States. In 1913, the name Girl Guides was changed to Girl Scouts and was incorporated in 1915 with its base in Washington, D.C. Juliette was given the title of founder in 1920 where she also served as president of the organization. Ms. Low was a talented sculptor and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, 85 years after her death. Juliette Gordon Low died on January 17, 1927.  

Here are some e-Books that can be checked out from Hoopla! 

Juliette Gordon Low by Dona Herweck Rice 

Here are some books that can be checked out from our catalog! 

Juliette Gordon Low The Remarkable Founder Of The Girl Scouts by Stacy A. Cordery 

Juliette Gordon Low America’s First Girl Scout by Kathleen V. Kudlinski 

First Girl Scout The Life of Juliette Gordon Low by Ginger Wadsworth 

Here Come the Girl Scouts! The Amazing All-true Story of Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low and Her Great Adventure by Shana Corey 

Check out some websites about Juliette Gordon Low! 

Juliette Gordon Low’s Life on 

Juliette Gordon Low’s Life from Girl 

Charlotte Lamberton  

Charlotte Lamberton was a 1930-1940’s deaf professional adagio and ballroom dancer. Her professional dancing skills were paired up with her deaf dancing partner and brother Charles. She appeared in Broadway and Hollywood productions. She was able to dance to a rhythm by using vibrations. 

To learn more about Charlotte Lamberton visit  SignLanguage and Gallaudet University. 

Marie Jean Philip (April 20, 1953 – September 24, 1997) 

Marie Jean Philip was an ASL teacher, researcher, and bilingual-bicultural coordinator at the Learning Center for The Deaf in 1985. Marie was born in Massachusetts to deaf parents. She went to the American School for the Deaf in her early years. Her two younger sisters were also deaf and attended the American School for the Deaf also. She graduated from Gallaudet University and studied deaf and ASL culture. She was teacher, mentor and resource guide. She worked at Northeastern University and worked to provide advocacy to the deaf community.  

To learn more about Marie Jean Philip visit The Learning Center for the Deaf. 

Claudia Gordon 

Claudia Gordon is the first female deaf African American lawyer in the U.S. Her mom came to the United States from Jamaica with Claudia to provide a better life for her family. While in Bronx, New York, Claudia had sudden middle ear pain at age 8 and suddenly became deaf. She went back to Jamaica at age 11 and visited the U. S. when she went to the Lexington School and Center for the Deaf where she excelled and went to Howard University and graduated in 1995. She worked at the National Association of the Deaf Law and Advocacy Center and the National Council on Disability. She worked during the Obama administration as the Special Assistant for the United States Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.          

To learn more about Claudia Gordon visit Meet the Women of the Administration: Claudia Gordon and The 

Marlee Matlin (August 24, 1965-) 

Marlee Matlin is an actress that has won an Academy Award and is a role mole to others. She is from Illinois and is the youngest of three children. She became deaf when she was 18 months old from an illness that left her deaf in the right ear and 80 percent deaf in the left ear. Marlee learned sign language when she was five and discovered acting through the Center on Deafness with the role of Dorothy on the Wizard of Oz. She graduated from Harper College and worked on the movie Children of a Lesser God. She has appeared in many television and film roles over the years. She fulfilled one of her dreams to write a children’s book about being deaf. In her extra time, she supports charities like Children Affected by AIDS Foundation and Starlight Children’s Foundation. 

To learn more about Marlee Marlin visit and Marlee 

Ashley Fiolek (October 22, 1990-) 

Ashely Fiolek was born October 22, 1990 in Detroit, Michigan. She is a former professional motorcross racer. Her list of awards includes two-time X Games gold metal, first deaf person to win an AMA National Championship, 13-time amateur National Champion and Courage in Sports Award recipient.  Ashley was born deaf and has always used sign language. A moto she lives by is “Always keep trying and do whatever you want.” She retired from professional motorcross competition in 2013 and is now a stunt performer.  

To learn more about Ashely Fiolek visit  Women’s Sports, and  Ashley Fiolek MX School. 

Shoshannah Stern (July 3, 1980-) 

Shoshannah Stern is a famous actress and writer born July 3, 1980 in Walnut Creek, California. She was born into a deaf fourth generation family where her first language was American Sign Language. She went to Gallaudet University. Gallaudet University is a liberal arts college for the Deaf. Shoshannah reads lips and can speak without an interpreter. As an actress, she has been on This Close, The Hammer, and Jericho. She is currently married and has a daughter.  

To learn more about Shoshannah Stern visit and Start 

Connie Briscoe (December 31, 1952-) 

Connie Briscoe was born with a hearing impairment that left her deaf by the age of thirty. She was born in Washington, D.C. on December 31, 1952. Connie is an accomplished American writer of historical fiction and romance. Her first novel was in 1994 by the title of Sisters and Lovers. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Hampton University and her master’s in Public Administration. For a time, she worked at Gallaudet University, where she learned American Sign Language and learned about deaf culture. She says that, “I never let my hearing loss hold me back from doing the things I wanted to do. I just adapted and plowed on.” Some of the famous work she had written include A Long Way from HomeBig Girls Don’t Cry, and Money Can’t Buy Love. 

To learn more about Connie Briscoe visit Connie,  African American Literature Book, and  Book 

Phyllis Frelich (February 29, 1944April 10, 2014) 

Phyllis Frelich was the oldest sibling of nine children born on February 29, 1944 in Devils Lake, North Dakota. Her parents were deaf and she graduated from North Dakota School for the Deaf and later graduated college from Gallaudet University in library science. She loved theater which lead her into acting and won the Tony Award for a stage performance. She won the Tony for Children of a Lesser God and was based on her marriage to Robert Steinberg. She worked closely with her husband and playwright Mark Medoff. The story was about how deaf people live their lives.  

To learn more about Phyllis Frelich visit New York Times.comNational Association of the, and Hearing Health and Technology 


Hello! My name is Ms. Tracy and I am a librarian assistant in the Austintown and Michael Kusalaba Library. I am a new librarian assistant and I enjoy reading nonfiction books about travel and animals. My favorite part about being a librarian is helping all of the wonderful people that I get to meet.