Deaf Utopia Did Exist

The History of A Deaf Utopia by Lizzie Whitworth
Jonathan Lambert was the first known deaf settler of Martha’s Vineyard in 1694. Over years of marriage, deaf child after deaf child was born (or deaf generation after deaf generation). At one point in time, every 1 child out of 4 in Chilmark, Martha’s Vineyard was born deaf. There were such a large number of deaf people in Chilmark that they created their own sign language – called Martha’s Vineyard Sign Language (MVSL) which eventually combined with American Sign Language (ASL). (For more information on MVSL go to:'s_Vineyard_Sign_Language

The deaf population was phased out when deaf school age children started going to deaf schools in other towns outside of Chilmark, eventually settling and marrying there. The last deaf Martha’s vineyard native passed away in 1950.

Communication: Everyone communicated in MVSL – Hearing and Deaf!
What’s most fascinating to me is that because of the high number of deaf people in Chilmark, everyone knew sign language – and apparently everyone would communicate in sign language, both the deaf AND the hearing. It was also well accepted there were no prejudices against the deaf in town.

WhatThis Means
Really, this is just a fascinating article that shows how a small town, with a high deaf population, accommodated and really built their community on and around being deaf. Everyone could communicate with one another. There were no stigmas –the deaf weren’t left behind or did they have a very difficult time doing routine things. Today, the deaf culture is diminishing, like discussed in Train Go Sorry. The students at The Lexington School for the Deaf discussed how difficult it was for them to communicate with others outside of their school, talking to the hearing could be very problematic. Chilmark shows us what is possible when the hearing know ASL.