Alice Cogswell: the first American deaf pupil

Alice Cogswell (1805-1930) is an inspirational symbol in the history of deaf education breakthrough. At that time, there was no education for the deaf students in America until Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet met his neighbor, the Cogswell family.

Gallaudet encountered a nine years old deaf girl Alice in Hartford, Connecticut. He taught her some words by writing in the dirt with a stick and Alice learned the words. Alice's father, Dr. Mason Cogswell, asked Gallaudet to go to Europe to learn about teaching methods and education for the deaf.

Fifteen months later, Gallaudet returned to Connecticut with a French deaf teacher Laurent Clerc from France. They founded the first school for the deaf (now the American School for the Deaf) in Hartford, Connecticut in 1817. Alice was one of the seven first students in the United States.

Gallaudet Cogswell Sculpture by Daniel Chester French
Gallaudet and Cogswell, a sculpture by Daniel Chester French (1850-1931).

This 1889 statue portrays Gallaudet fingerspelling the alphabetical letter "a" to his pupil Alice Cogswell who imitates him. It symbolizes the new beginning of education for deaf students in America.

The statue is located on the campus of Gallaudet University. Daniel French was an American sculptor whose best-known work is the marble sculpture of Abraham Lincoln seated on a throne at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.