Bell Did Not Want to “Eradicate” the Deaf.”

Although he is best known as the inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell actually devoted much more of this life to helping people who were deaf, especially children.

It is cruel and wrong to say Bell wanted to “eradicate” the deaf. His mother and wife were both deaf, and Bell devoted his life to helping the hearing impaired. “He is never quite so happy as when he has a little deaf child in his arms,” wrote Helen Keller about the man who “taught the deaf to speak.”

While Ms. Booth is a gifted writer, her book is deeply flawed by factual errors and distortions. She begins by blaming Bell for the poor treatment her deaf grandmother received in a hospital and the inadequate education some deaf relatives received, even though Bell died nearly a hundred years ago. Ms. Booth is on a vendetta, that that doesn’t make for fair, accurate historical writing.

Helen Keller with Alexander Graham Bell.  Source: Bell Family Archives
Helen Keller with Alexander Graham Bell

Bell was instrumental in helping Helen Keller and she dedicated her memoirs to him.

Bell taught his first deaf children in 1868 at a London school run by Susanna Hull, and “was thus introduced to what proved to be my life-work – the teaching of speech to the deaf,” as he later recalled. He developed innovative new methods for teaching the deaf and over his lifetime wrote nearly a thousand pages about education of the deaf. He spoke at innumerable conferences and testified before committees, created a national organization for teachers of the deaf, and in 1893 founded what is now the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (agbell.org), one of the world’s leading sources of assistance for the deaf.

A serious historian familiar with the body of primary documents relating to Bell (see bibliography) can easily counter Ms. Booth’s false claims, exaggerations and quotations taken out of context.