By Nora Ellen Groce
From the 17th century to the early years of the 20 th, the inhabitants of Martha's winery manifested an exceptionally excessive fee of profound hereditary deafness. In stark distinction to the adventure of such a lot deaf humans in our personal society, the Vineyarders who have been born deaf have been so completely built-in into the way of life of the group that they weren't seen--and didn't see themselves--as handicapped or as a bunch aside. Deaf humans have been incorporated in all elements of existence, comparable to city politics, jobs, church affairs, and social lifestyles. How was once this attainable?
On the winery, listening to and deaf islanders alike grew up talking signal language. This certain sociolinguistic version intended that the standard limitations to verbal exchange among the listening to and the deaf, which so isolate many deaf buyers, didn't exist.
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Additional info for Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language: Hereditary Deafness on Martha's Vineyard
Chilmark, also named for an English parish, was the last of the original Island towns to be settled; the actual date of settlement is unclear. Located on the rolling, sandy, western part of Martha's Vineyard, with broad moors and peat bogs, Chilmark was a natural location for sheep raising, which had become a profitable industry in Connecticut and Rhode Island. It was not until the close of the seventeenth century that an "appreciable" population-about forty people-had moved into the area (Banks 1966, 2:5).
This date falls at the very outer edge of current oral history, so most of the anecdotes in the following chapters concern deaf people up-Island rather than in Edgartown. ) Tisbury and Chilmark were predominantly Kentish towns from the outset, and from the first generation on, continuing inbreeding led to a rapid growth in the number of deaf individuals. While the average number of deaf people in the Island population as a whole was 1: 155, in Tisbury it was 1:49. In 1704 the first known deaf individual, Beulah Lambert, was born in Tisbury; the last one died in 1937.
A sizable proportion of the male population added to their farm income by fishing, usually in dories. One man to a boat, they would push off into the pounding surf of South Beach for a day's fishing, returning at night with cod, bluefish, and flounder. The lack of a safe port for larger boats, the local subsistence economy, and the full day's journey to Edgartown over rough and at times dangerous roads made Chilmark isolated, even compared to the other Vineyard towns. Most people in town were able to get by, but few got rich.