A Brief Introduction By John Walker

This section will explore what happened before the 1970s and understand how deaf children were educated


Photo:Flower Power

Flower Power

When we think about the 1970s, some important events come to mind: the push for equality between men and women; the energy crisis and the three day working week; the first test tube baby and the availability of the contraceptive pill; the change from imperial to decimal currency; and flower power and the Beatles.

The 1970s was a decade of change. Feminism changed how we talked about people and how they relate with each other. Rather than seeing all issues from the eyes of a man, we started to explore how the same issues can be viewed by a woman. There was a rise in 'helping professions', such as a counsellor or social worker, after the Seventies. Society realised they had a responsibility to enable people to improve their lives.

So what happened before?

Photo:Battle of Britain memorial, women at work

Battle of Britain memorial, women at work

In the 1960s, the old systems persist and people were starting to rebel. People no longer wanted an archaic system, where it was assumed men would always be in the dominant position. It was a time when women were steered towards careers in typing and clerical work, whereas men had a greater choice of careers. 

In the Second World War, when the men were fighting on the front lines, it was the women and people with disabilities who were running the factories, which gave the soldiers their weapons and vehicles they needed to fight the battles. For 5 years, women and disabled people had work and held senior positions. When the war was over and the soldiers returned from the front line, the women and disabled were made redundant or demoted, to give jobs to the men who came home. It was their children who saw this injustice and took a stand.

And deaf people?

Photo:Herbert Blunden

Herbert Blunden

Sarah Bown

This situation also affected deaf people too, such as Herbert Blunden (1905-1999), a deaf man. During the war, he worked in a piano factory but most of this peers were conscripted into the army; he was the only one left. He was promptly promoted to foreman and took charge of the factory. When his workmates returned, he lost his position; "when the war ended, I asked the manager if I could still be foreman, but he said I could not because I was deaf."

Herbert, and his deaf wife Muriel, became welfare workers for the Deaf community and were popular figures in Sussex: "they were very gentle people, very approachable", said Mary Wilson. "They supported my parents a lot when I was growing up."

Deaf people were discriminated regularly and, like women, they also rebelled against the assumed norm. They wanted to have a role in society too.

This page was added on 29/08/2012.

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