Mary Hare History

Mary Adelaide Hare 1865-1945
A biography of Mary Adelaide Hare, written by Jennifer Little, in 1983.
Foreword by the Editor of the Phoenix 1983

1983 is the 100th anniversary of Miss Mary Hare starting to teach deaf children. Mary Hare died in 1945 but the School that bears her name and enshrines her principles lives on, and year after year a new generation of school pupils enter the front door of Arlington Manor and stand, awed, before the portrait of the woman who gave them the opportunity to have the best education that the deaf world can offer.

This article was orginally part of the first ever website dedicated to Mary Hare Grammar School way back in April 1996 marking the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the school.

What was Mary Hare like as a person? Her achievements in deaf education are well documented, but was her character, her mode of speech, her personality? She is surrounded by so many myths and legends that it is sometimes difficult to separate fact from fiction. Stories of her cruelty to her pupils must be treated with care. On the other hand Mary Hare is known to have liked animals and she once had a donkey and cart in which she gave little children rides so she cannot have been wholly an ogre. All who remember her agree on her strength of character and one of the longest serving teachers at the School, Miss Kathleen Williams, who retired a few years ago, has described Mary Hare as gracious, if rather awe-inspiring. A person possessing such a forthright character as Mary Hare possessed does not go through life without treading on a few toes.

When the idea of writing about Mary Hare was first mooted, I wrote to several people who I thought might have known her asking for their personal recollections of her. Sadly, the one person I was relying on most never knew her although he did say that the portrait of Mary Hare which hangs in the hall of Arlington Manor is an excellent likeness, as the man who unveiled the portrait, Frank Denmark, had been a close friend of Mary Hare.

The accuracy of the portrait is also vouched for by Miss Williams. She never knew Mary Hare herself, but she recalls seeing her several times at meetings of the National College of Teachers of the Deaf, when, as Miss Williams puts it, "she was a very young and insignificant teacher in the back row and she (Mary Hare) was one of the pillars of the College".

Miss Williams recalls that sometime between 1932 and 1939 Helen Keller visited England and the NCTD gave a luncheon in her honour. After her speech Helen Keller volunteered to lip-read any members of the audience "and as I remember, Miss Mary Hare had Helen Keller’s fingers on her mouth so that Helen Keller could lip-read through her fingers what Mary Hare was saying".

There are a few records of a personal nature in the School’s archives, including a short film of Mary Hare with her pupils at Dene Hollow. There is undoubtedly the odd photograph and letter scattered around various people. As time goes on, memories of Mary Hare will inevitably fade, but her life’s work and her achievements will continue to flourish. The story of that work and those achievements is told in the next article and to round off the story we have an article contributing to the oral v. manual debate that Mary Hare played so great a part in.

Her Edict: "Good Speech is a means to Further Education for the Deaf".

The current year, 1983, is the 100th anniversary of the start of Mary Hare’s teaching the deaf. It was unusual in those days to be a female teacher, let alone a teacher for the deaf. At about sixteen, Mary Hare was greatly encouraged by her mother to pursue an unusual career in spite of being one of a family of ten. She first became interested in teaching the deaf after reading an article by Arthur Kinsey, Principal of the Ealing Training College for Teachers of the Deaf. The college had opened as recently as 1878 and was the first of its kind. Even so, in 1883, no special qualifications were needed to teach the deaf.

After two years at college, Mary Hare passed out with a Honours certificate and probably decided there and then to devote her whole life to providing a fully oral education for the deaf, to promoting this idea to teachers and colleges, and to proving to the hearing world that deaf people wore capable of attaining scholastic and academic achievements. It was still a few years before she started receiving pupils at her mother’s home in Upper Norwood, London.

The person who most influenced Mary Hare’s idealism was Thomas Arnold. Other possibly influential figures include the Anglo-Saxon St.John of Beverley, Alexander Graham Bell, the German Samuel Heinicke (he of the successful but somewhat enigmatic teaching method) and Thomas Braidwood. Other influential candidates were Braidwood’s nephew, Joseph Watson and the sixteenth-century Spanish monk Pedro Ponce de Leon. Ponce was the first person who could really teach the deaf. He not only taught his pupils to speak Spanish but also French, and the pupils learnt other subjects like History. A few years later another Spaniard called Bonet wrote a book about how to teach the deaf. Yet, it has taken so long for someone to really succeed, due to a general lack of understanding of the deaf and in any case it was, and still is, extremely difficult to teach them. One world-renowned Ancient Greek said that a deaf man was "blind in the ears" and another said "Those who are born deaf have a voice but no speech." The Romans themselves did not know how to teach the deaf - however, they knew that the deaf were made up of 3 groups: those who were born deaf, these who were born hearing and then went deaf and finally, those who were partially hearing. Beverley was next on the scene at about AD 700

When Mary Hare started teaching, not many schools were committed to oralism. Most of then were set up by charity and many were called "Asylums for the Deaf and Dumb". There was no pre-school guidance, no nursery schools and, of course, no hearing aids. It was generally considered not proper to "educate the deaf and dumb to anything much further advanced than manual work in a closed workshop". At this stage, it is hard to believe that much change had already taken place since 1792 when Braidwood opened the first school with only six poor pupils. By 1893, there were twenty-seven schools in Britain and in 1900 there were 3,745 deaf pupils. The 1870 Education Act made the London School Board set up a day school (which later became residential). Meanwhile a big argument developed between the people who liked the eighteenth-century Frenchman Abbe de l’Eppe’s sign language and the people who liked his contemporary, Heinicke’s "German Oral Method". In 1880, there was an International Congress at Milan, Italy, when it was finally decided that Western Europe and America must use the Pure Oral system and that deaf children should start school at about eight years old and stay there for about another eight years, in classes of not more than ten.

In 1886, a Royal Commission wrote a report on teaching the deaf and in 1893, Parliament passed a law saying that all the cities, towns and counties must educate their deaf children from the time they were seven years old until they were sixteen years old. The law resulted in several day schools being opened but there was still no special qualification in teaching and no mention of higher education for the deaf. It should now be clear that the prevailing conditions were not very favourable to Mary Hare’s ambition but she was very determined and had strong support from her sister, Ethel.

Mary Hare’s teaching was immediately successful. A few years after graduation she moved her school from her mother’s home to Brighton. The venture at Brighton was a great success and Mary Hare’s small school began to acquire a world-wide reputation for its standards, particularly in speech. The first lot of academic results made their way into the national newspapers. Mary Hare moved premises several times to accomodate the growing number of pupils, until in 1916 she finally acquired premises at Dene Hollow, Burgess Hill. Dene Hollow began with 45 pupils aged from three to eighteen years, The School was private but there was no set scale of charges. Richer pupils were heavily charged in order to subsidise the poorer pupils’ education. Mary Hare’s over-riding concern was to provide oral education for any deaf boy or girl who she thought could benefit. She was also intent on a family atmosphere, as far removed from the old institutions as possible.

What were Mary Hare’s principles of teaching and what were her methods for "good" speech?

Mary Hare’s teaching principles were guided by Thomas Arnold and in particular, by one of his books titled "Education of the Deaf Mutes" in which he stated that from his own experience, deaf children should intellectually be given an opportunity to talk. The book also contains studies of the history of deaf education, an anatomy of the speech organs and phonetics. Arnold, and Mary Hare in turn, were profoundly influenced by Pestalozzi and Frochel. The former sought ways of developing speech and language in deaf children that would be consistent with the principles of the latter. Mary Hare herself had a policy that lipreading, reading and speaking should be relevent to activity, that all lessons irrespective of subjects were language lessons to practice lipreading and speaking whole sentences with activity to reinforce the learning. The teaching principles took a long time to become well established at schools. Mary Hare persevered and went out of her way to make her principles known to the teaching world, using "Good Speech is a means to Further Education" as her main guiding theme. She inspired and encouraged others with her "burning zeal". It is probable that she had some form of empathy with the likes of Ince Jones, Mundin, A.G.Bell, Sibley Haycock, Helen Keller, Eicholz, Edward Evans and the Ewings. Mary Hare was a member of the National College of Teachers of the Deaf (NCTD) from its inception, spent many years on its Executive and was elected to the college’s "chair" during the 1928/9 season. She is one of the few women to have achieved this distinction and during her term, presided at the successful Conference of Teachers of the Deaf, held at Brighton. Finally, in 1941, Mary Hare was made Vice-President of the College. However, Mary Hare did not confine herself to the deaf teaching world. Indeed, at Burgess Hill, she stood for the local Urban District Council and was President of the Burgess Hill Public Library and a Trustee of St. John’s Institute.

Unfortunately, when it comes to Mary Hare’s methods of "good" speech, they have been difficult to establish mainly because, like Heinicke and, to a lesser extent, Braidwood, Mary Hare was very protective of her own methods. Thereby, lies a paradox - although she was very active in the NCTD, she preferred to employ untrained persons in order that they should learn her methods only. Even then, they were not allowed to handle the speech correcting part of the curriculum. In later years, Mary Hare mistrusted others to carry out her work and even when very ill in bed in her late seventies, she would have pupils called to her bedside for speech lessons. It must be said at this stage that Mary Hare was always aware of new developments of hearing aid facilities and acquired the latest Multiton amplifier with loudspeaker and headphones when she was 76 years old in 1940-41. It is also true that she was a great advocate of the "Articulation Method" still used in some schools as late as 1970. This method was probably the most effective oral method prior to the hearing aid era although some doubt whether enough attention was given to utilizing any residual hearing by speaking close to the ear, by practising discrimination of gross sounds and so on, Mary Hare trained her pupils in the correct articulation of speech and, in common with "Arnoldites", started in the reverse of modern order, ie different vowels and consonants were taught in order of difficulty and practised for long poriods of time before they were placed, first in syllables and then in words. During speech lessons, much attention was paid to using all other possible means of reinforcement such as touch, muscle control and a mirror.

People who knew Mary Hare agree that it is her powerful personality that they remember most - "men would always stand when she entered the room". They also remember her strictness but there is controversy about the form it took, particularly in the last few years of her life when she suffered ill-health. During that period, some people equated her attitude with cruelty. In 1970, there were a few ex-employees of Mary Hare still alive and they found themselves becoming emotionally distressed whenever they were asked about the circumstances under which they left Mary Hare’s school. They also refused to give details.

When Mary Hare died in her 80th year, on the day of November 5th 1945, oralism had become widespread but was not yet quite fully accepted and full-time education beyond school-leaving age was not yet commonplace. An example of resistance to, and defence of, oralism in 1945, was Ethel Goldsack’s article in "Teachers of the Deaf" admonishing a Mr Greenaway for writing another article suggesting that "Basic" Sign Language should be taught to young deaf children. As well as there being oral schools and manual schools, there were some schools where peculiar methods of communication were used. Mary Hare’s grand final act concerning further education was to state in her will that her school should form the basis for the first National Grammar School for deaf boys and girls, even though she did not leave any money. So, in June 1946, Dene Hollow Oral School for the Deaf became the Mary Hare Grammar School for the Deaf. Ethel Hare and Edward Evans were among the Trustees of Mary Hare’s estate who later formed the nucleus of the Board of Governors. The Board was increased by the appointment of representative Governors from other eductaional bodies. At that time, there was some opposition within deaf education circles towards a Grammar School. Some headmasters of the old "all age" schools for the deaf refused to send any of their children to this new school. The reason for this refusal is still not known, but it has been suggested that those headmasters thought that jobs which suited the deaf child’s academic qualifications were not to be had and therefore those qualifications would be damaging to the child. Since then, MHGS ex-pupils have, by and large, been able to get jobs which matched their academic qualifications and an increasing proportion successfully complete further education.

Nowadays demand for the annual entrance examination is sky-high and local education authorities, in spite of the current spending cuts, have no hesitation in providing fees for any selected child and continuing payment up to and including the sixth form if needed. Partly because the standard set by the School is high as always and partly because the resources are limited as always, only a small number of candidates get into the School. It has increased its resources by, for example, moving to much larger premises at Arlington Manor in 1950 and by increasing the number of buildings in the School grounds. There is always quite a good number of candidates who fail the entrance examination but who have a lot of potential. Some of the male ones go to Burwood Park Technical School, opened in 1955, [Webmasters Note: closed down 1995] where there is a Sixth-Form college. At the Royal School, Derby, there is a student house where deaf students can live and attend the College for Further Education in Derby. The continuation of such good work must start at the large number of clinics now available. They can find out whether a baby is deaf and if so, teach the baby the beginning of lip- reading and teach the mother to help the baby to speak. In addition, classroom equipment is getting much more flexible and effective in its aid towards good speech. Just after the Second World War, the government said that it was time to build special schools for Partially Hearing children. Then Birkdale, Tewin Water, Ovingdean and Needwood were built. Birkdale, in particular, has acquired a good reputation for its overall standards. Partially Hearing Units within secondary schools are increasing in number. Nuffield Priory, opened in the late 1960s, is enjoying considerable success and pupils from many of the older schools are proving all the time that "Good Speech is a means to Further Education".

Jennifer Little (1974)

The author wishes to thank Mr Pearce (Principal 1973-1987) for providing much of the source material.