Cover image for Signs of resistance : American deaf cultural history, 1900 to World War II
Signs of resistance : American deaf cultural history, 1900 to World War II
Burch, Susan.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : New York University Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
ix, 230 pages : illustrations 24 cm.
Irony of acculturation -- Visibly different : sign language and the deaf community -- The extended family : associations of the deaf -- Working identities : labor issues -- The full court press : legal issues -- Irony of acculturation, continued.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HV2530 .B87 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Choice Outstanding Academic Title 2003

During the nineteenth century, American schools for deaf education regarded sign language as the "natural language" of Deaf people, using it as the principal mode of instruction and communication. These schools inadvertently became the seedbeds of an emerging Deaf community and culture. But beginning in the 1880s, an oralist movement developed that sought to suppress sign language, removing Deaf teachers and requiring deaf people to learn speech and lip reading. Historians have all assumed that in the early decades of the twentieth century oralism triumphed overwhelmingly.

Susan Burch shows us that everyone has it wrong; not only did Deaf students continue to use sign language in schools, hearing teachers relied on it as well. In Signs of Resistance , Susan Burch persuasively reinterprets early twentieth century Deaf history: using community sources such as Deaf newspapers, memoirs, films, and oral (sign language) interviews, Burch shows how the Deaf community mobilized to defend sign language and Deaf teachers, in the process facilitating the formation of collective Deaf consciousness, identity and political organization.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

The resistance to oralism and eugenics, the assertion of sign as a beautiful and important linguistic accomplishment, the determination to be included in work, sports, film, dance, theater, politics, and education, and the emergence of the Deaf/deaf community in the US from 1900 to 1942 are documented in this important cultural history. Burch (history, Gallaudet Univ.) makes a significant contribution to readers' understanding of racism and disability when she traces the exclusion of deaf African Americans from the dominantly white Deaf/deaf political activism and club movement. The book provides a foundation for understanding the still problematic positioning of Deaf/deaf women within their own community. Today's assertive Deaf woman often finds herself not at home in either the Deaf or hearing worlds. Her historical exclusion from clubs, leadership positions, and professions where Deaf men had entry are all part and parcel of the ongoing discrimination she faces. The historical exclusion of Deaf men by hearing women in Deaf schools adds to this unfortunate history of sexism. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Collections supporting disability studies, deaf studies, ethnic studies (particularly black and Native American studies) and women's studies courses and programs. P. A. Murphy University of Toledo