Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet was born in 1787 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A brilliant man, Gallaudet graduated from Yale University at the age of seventeen. But his plans for his life — to become a professional minister — were set aside when he met the nine-year-old daughter of his neighbor Mason Cogswell.
The daughter, Alice, was deaf. Gallaudet was inspired by the girl, and decided he wanted to teach her. Improvising at first, he soon travelled to Europe to study methods for educating deaf students. He learned sign language in France, and returned to America to raise money to found a school that later became known as the American School for the Deaf. Alice Cogswell was amongst the first class of seven pupils.
His family carried on the passion. His youngest child, Edward Miner Gallaudet, went on to found the first college for the deaf, which eventually became Gallaudet University. A statue of Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet and young Alice Cogswell, by acclaimed sculptor Daniel Chester French, sits in front of the campus.
In 1988, Gallaudet University was the site of a student-led protest, with the goal of appointing a deaf person to head the institution. While ultimately unsuccessful, the protest remains a landmark moment in national consciousness for the rights and abilities of deaf and hard of hearing people, and letters of support poured in from national leaders.
For these covers, I used an elliptical cutout of the Thomas and Alice statue from the Gallaudet University Campus, and paired it with a line that the Rev. Jesse Jackson included in his letter of support to the students:
"The problem is not that the students do not hear. The problem is that the hearing world does not listen."
Each bears one Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet stamp from the Great Americans series (Scott #1861) and one of the two stamps from the American Sign Language issue (Scott #2783-4).