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Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language By: Nora Ellen Groce


Lauren Mills

on 13 November 2012

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Transcript of Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language By: Nora Ellen Groce

Facts Quotes History Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language
By: Nora Ellen Groce -" For over two and a half centuries the population of this island had a strikingly high incidents of hereditary deafness. In the nineteenth century, and presumably earlier, one American in every 5728 was born deaf, but on the Vineyard the figure was one in every 155." (page 3) “'People up there got so used to them that they didn’t take hardly any notice of them’” (page 51)

“'It was taken pretty much for granted’” (page 51)

“‘They were just like anybody else’” (page 51)

“‘I thought it was so funny that they should write about it in the paper…wasn’t it funny that a Boston paper would be interested in it’”(page 51-52) Who Spoke Sign Language? The community could communicate through sign language

Children learned when they were young since they all knew a relative or friend who was deaf

“None of my informants remembered any formal teaching”. It was something they learned in their everyday life (page 55) Life as a Deaf Islander
It Could happen to Anyone Where Was it Used? Signing was used in everyday interactions

At the town store

At long distances

While they were fishing

During church Deaf Children and Their Education All but one deaf child attended the American Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb
Many became smarter than the hearing children Marriage and Family Life Deaf Islanders got married

Married both the deaf and the hearing

Hearing and deaf married around the same ages and they had the same divorce rates

The deaf Islanders average was above the nations average for deaf parents Occupations They farmed, fished, and did all the jobs the hearing did

Jedidiah was born deaf and only had one hand

“‘One-armed Jedidiah…had a pasture…and he had a horse’” (page 82)

“he was one of the best boatmen and the best shot in Chilmark” (page 82) Social Life The deaf were allowed to vote, own land, and hold government positions

They were responsible for their own legal affairs

They were a part of everyday life…
They met in town
Played games
Attended parties and other gatherings The End of Island Life Summer residents became permanent residents
With more people, deafness became less prevalent Why Does this Matter? The Islanders treated those who were deaf like the normal people they were
In a world where we discriminate, judge, and try do deny people their rights, the Islanders recognized people for who they were Summary - There was an Indian settlement on Martha's Vineyard, the largest island off the coast of New England almost 4,000years ago

-European settlers came in 1644

-the rich soil and the mild climate made for good farming and sheep raising

-The population increased and several towns were established

-By the late 1600's , the towns of Tisbury and Chilmark were settled.The growing population had misused and damaged the soil so much the farmers had to turn to fishing and whaling

-By the late 1800's the whaling industry had declined and the Vineyard's economy began to be fueled by tourism

-"The descendants of the original settlers still make up a large part, if not the majority, of the year-round population." (page20) Origin -The first case of deafness recorded was a journal entry by Judge Samuel Sewell in 1714

-85% of the children who were born deaf came from parents who were not deaf

-All families were linked back to the descendents that came from the "English county of Kent known as the Weald" (page 26)

-The genetic mutation came from someone from Kent -Gale Huntington was a native islander who helped the author Nora Groce start her journey into researching the genealogy of the deaf islanders of Martha's Vineyard
-The study took place on the island of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts (Chilmark, Tisbury)
-Not everyone was deaf on the island, but everyone on the island spoke sign language
-In the book Groce talks about “genetics, deaf studies, sociolinguistics, ethnography, and oral written history to construct an ethnohistory of a genetic disorder.” (page 3) -People on the island never thought of the deaf as handicapped or different because the hearing islanders adapted by learning sign language -There are as many as 70 different types of hereditary deafness.Half of these have no other abnormalities except for their deafness. The Vineyard population fits into this group “A deaf person’s greatest problem is not simply that he or she cannot hear but that the lack of hearing is socially isolating” (page 3)
"Using sign language, you could make 'em all understand...I never heard of anybody having any problem" (page 58)
"There were so many of them that nobody thought anything about it...when they had socials...everybody would go and [the deaf] enjoyed it...they used to have fun" (page 59) Genetics of the Vineyard's Deafness -Because immigration to the island had stopped in the early 1700's, the population began to intermarry
- The island was somewhat isolated because it was hard to get to and from the main land
- "By the late 1700's, of those who married, over 96% married someone to whom they were already related." (page 41)
-Marriages between 1st cousins were permitted
-The number of deaf people rose as the family inbreeding continued
-Because the towns of Chilmark and Tisbury were of Kentish ancestry their inbreeding led to an increase of deaf children
-The population of deaf people decreased because it was a whaling town -“The deafness that appeared on the Vineyard, then, can be explained genetically in terms of a mutant gene for deafness and subsequent inbreeding by the carriers of that gene, first in the Weald and then on the Vineyard.” (page 43) -END: In the late 1800's hereditary decreased because islanders began to marry off -islanders and there was an increase of tourists as well as Portuguese immigrants
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