Sunday, April 25, 2021

...when research interests connect- a look back at history...

This is a somewhat unusual post for this blog but not an unusual post if you know me in real life. I've been a professor of English at Gallaudet University for 15 years. Several years ago, a few of my peers and I decided we would return to graduate school to pursue our other interests. I returned to graduate school for Public History and focused my study on historic cemeteries. When I graduated from the program in 2018, I started teaching general education courses focused on historic cemeteries. I have given tours to Deaf and hearing tourists in local cemeteries in Richmond, Virginia.

I love cemetery maps and visitor guides and I have quite a collection. They’re heavily focused on military heroes, founding fathers, political leaders, and the who’s who in that region’s history. I quickly scan guides to find the famous or infamous females who helped build a region’s history. More often than not, from the dozens of entries, there are usually only a few women mentioned rendering the majority of women invisible.

In 2020, I made a point to create my own guidebook. When tours were suspended for COVID-19, I started doing research and traveling to cemeteries across the state.

I’m super proud to share that my book project provisionally entitled Women Writers Buried in Virginia Cemeteries was accepted for publication by the editorial board for The History Press/ Arcadia Publishing. The book will be published in early 2022.

I did submit a complete manuscript with my proposal but as any writer knows, there are always edits and revisions. I just didn’t think I would be adding to the list. I had 40 women writers buried in Virginia cemeteries and now I have 44 women writers.While I already included some deaf authors in my manuscript, this recent find was exciting for me.

Small gravestone of author Margaret Prescott Montague
The grave of author Margaret Prescott Montague

Members of Friends of Shockoe Hill pointed out another woman writer and while I'm digging through the society pages, Margaret P. Montague's name came up and suddenly more local women writers were discovered. 

Margaret Prescott Montague's name seemed so familiar ONLY BECAUSE SHE WAS IN MY DOCTORAL DISSERTATION RESEARCH! 

Yesterday, my research interests connected. The woman author who is buried in a Virginia cemetery was also an author who wrote a children's story with deaf characters.

Screenshot of text from Bernard Guella, "Short Stories with Deaf Fictional Characters," American Annals of the Deaf, February 1983, Vol. 128, 1, p.28.
Bernard Guella

Montague was hard of hearing (in one account she writes that she simply cannot hear and she is annoyed with a doctor speaking to a hearing friend “On the Fringe of Silence; a Plea for the Hard of Hearing,” The Des Moines Register, Oct 6, 1934, 4.) and she had tunnel vision. 

Her brother was the superintendent of the West Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind. She interacted with the students there and they inspired her to write a few stories. 

Montague's 1915 writing includes deaf characters who are the main characters. They use sign language with other deaf characters. I love Bernard Guella's description of the book. See the screenshot. 

(Bernard Guella, "Short Stories with Deaf Fictional Characters," American Annals of the Deaf, February 1983, Vol. 128, 1, p.28.)