Question about SignWriter Newspaper 1981-1984

Valerie Sutton signwriting at MAC.COM
Sun Aug 18 19:11:18 UTC 2013

SignWriting List
August 18, 2013

Dear SW List Members -
I have several private messages from around the world. Instead of answering questions to one person, I will post the questions and answers here on the SignWriting List, so the answers can be archived in our SignWriting List Archives. Please post your questions to the SignWriting List directly, if you possibly can. All questions are welcome in any  language.

Question from a private email:
"The SignWriter Newspaper was published from 1981-1984? It was distributed to 41 countries for free? Can you give more details about the distribution? Was it sent to people who asked for a copy? Was it sent to institutions and/or private people? Was Gallaudet University interested? And what about European countries, such as Germany? perhaps the University of Hamburg?"

Answer from Valerie Sutton
Thank you for this question. The SignWriter Newspaper is explained briefly here:

SignWriter Newspaper Project, 1981-1984

The Founding Editor is Nancy Romero. The first issue in 1981 is a classic, all written by hand by Nancy - (thank you, Nancy ;-)   I still have the original layout boards in my garage - they are like a piece of art -

We had a great team of Deaf writers and editors as well - The SignWriter Newspaper was an important research project that had influence on the SignWriting system - Through writing articles in ASL, the Deaf writers learned what they needed to write ASL, and this experience lead to their request for writing Expressively, for writing in vertical columns, and for writing in stacked clusters instead of using stick figures…

Our non-profit organization, the Center For Sutton Movement Writing, was the publisher of the SignWriter Newspaper. Here in the United States, organizations which want to donate their services apply for "tax-exempt status" to the US state and national governments. These are called "non-profit" organizations. So our organization, the Center for Sutton Movement Writing, is a "US non-profit organization".

As a non-profit, we ask for, and receive donations from individuals, corporations and foundations. And when someone gives to our non-profit, their donation is "tax-exempt" here in the US.

So we wanted to distribute the SignWriter Newspaper free of charge to anyone interested in, or connected with signing Deaf people…so how did we do that?

We searched for a sponsor to pay for the printing and postage costs - and we found that. A local printing company donated the printing of around 11,000 copies quarterly. The printing company did the work of labeling all the newspapers with the addresses we provided, and they also paid for the shipping around the world. They did this for four years...

DISTRIBUTION... We mailed to Institutes for the Deaf (schools for the Deaf) in around 41 countries - to every state in the United States, to Canada, to Denmark, I believe to Norway (Ingvild, did you ever receive a copy of the SignWriter Newspaper in Norway?) … and also to well-known university-level programs for deaf education, such as the library at Gallaudet University, NTID (National Technical Institute for the Deaf) and so forth. We also sent to government-supported agencies for the Deaf. And later, after sending the Newspaper quarterly for a few times, we started to get requests for copies from individuals and libraries - so the mailing list started to grow.

The result was amazing! It is directly because of the SignWriter Newspaper, that KC (The Deaf's Communication Center in Copenhagen) asked me to return to Denmark to present SignWriting to around 30 teachers of Deaf students in the Danish school system in 1982, and because of that presentation, SignWriting was officially used in a project of bilingual education in Danish and Danish Sign Language, in the school system, from 1982-1988. Britta Hansen, the director of KC at the time, and others, did a lot of work to encourage bilingual education.

Regarding Germany, we sent the newspaper to some places in Germany, but I do not remember where. I would have to find our old distribution mailing list and I do not know where to begin to find that information. If I ever find it, I will tell you - My memory does not remember anything special about Germany at that time - 

Regarding Gallaudet  - yes,  it was freely distributed at Gallaudet - we sent piles to them to place in the Library and bookstore, and when I presented a SignWriting workshop at Gallaudet in 1984, I had the fun of placing the newspapers in the cafeteria and I enjoyed watching the Deaf people discussing the newspaper over breakfast!

There was controversy, but controversy is an important part of the development of a writing system - 

Distributing the SignWriter Newspaper freely all over the world was the best thing we could have done at that time - There were no personal computers and no internet, and this was our way of reaching the world -

Val ;-)

Valerie Sutton
SignWriting List moderator
sutton at

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