"Between worlds": How college educated deaf women negotiate education, mothering, and work

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Marjorie L. DeVault


College educated, Deaf, Women, Mothering, Work

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Family, Life Course, and Society | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology | Women's Studies


This qualitative study investigates the everyday lives of college educated deaf women in their family, educational, mothering and activism, and paid work experiences. The study is based on life history research with ten deaf women in two different cities in the northeast. The data reveal the seemingly "invisible" and often visible work involved as these women negotiate places for themselves and resist various obstacles in their paid and unpaid work lives. The women develop strategies to negotiate being part of the deaf world, hearing world, or somewhere, as they describe, "in between." Despite being educated orally and usually forbidden to learn sign language in their early years, the women are often tracked into working in deaf work environments, specifically into teaching professions. As part of their mothering and activist work, the women also make political decisions about their identities as well as those of their children when they make decisions about how to communicate in their families. The study also shows how institutions such as schools, families, and workplaces shape the women's work experiences and their identities. By uncovering the life experiences of these deaf women, these findings have implications for our education programs and hiring procedures.


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