For four decades, 19500’s through 1980’s, the #1 resource person
on deafness issues and deafness matters on the Capitol Hill
was Patria Forsthe, a hearing woman from Connecticut.
She knew nothing about deafness but when her son was born
deaf, she set out to learn all she could about this
deafness subject. This led her to an appointment on
the board at American School for the Deaf. She
made acquaintance with Abraham Ribicoff, the past
Governor of Connecticut, who also served on the
same school board.
When Ribicoff won election to become senator, he
asked Forsythe to work for him in Washington, DC.
Over the years, she gradually became the #1
resource person on the Hill. Her official title
was the staff director of the Senate Subcommittee
on the Handicapped. But for all practical purposes,
she was the deafness expert.
In these days very few people on the Hill knew about
or were interested about the deaf. The late deaf
advocate Frank Bowe said maybe just 4 or 5 people
were interested; others were not.
She helped Gallaudet get continued funding.
She helped NTID get founded. On other
deafness matters she also was of help to
voting politicians. To say that she
served behind the scenes was pretty much
the idea of her work. Not too many people
knew who she was, and among people that
knew her, they spoke in hushed tones.
Her son was fluent with ASL. Did Patria
know ASL. No!