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Elizabeth DeLong, Leader in the Utah Deaf Community


Elizabeth DeLong
photo courtesy of Family Search.

by Jodi Becker Kinner


Elizabeth DeLong, known as “Libbie,” was born hearing on April 2, 1877, in Panguitch, Utah, to Albert DeLong and Elizabeth Houston. At the age of five, Libbie became Deaf from scarlet fever and smallpox. At home, her mother was busy rearing her large family and wasn’t able to pay much attention to Libbie, but she was very close to her older sister, Dicey. She taught Libbie to practice her speech and served as an “oral” interpreter until she left to go to the Utah School for the Deaf (USD) in 1891.[1]

Elizabeth DeLong as a young girl. Courtesy of the DeLong Family Saga.

At the age of fourteen, Libbie’s life changed forever when she entered the USD which was housed at the University of Deseret in Salt Lake City, Utah. There, she began to learn sign language. At school, she was an active participant in extracurricular activities and became one of the editors of the student newspaper, The Eaglet.[2]

On June 8, 1897, Libbie and her Deaf cousin, John H. Clark were only two students from USD to graduate. They became the first students from Utah to enter Gallaudet College in Washington, D.C. in the fall of 1897.[3] During her senior year, Libbie was elected associate editor of the college publication called The Buff and Blue, and John H. (also a senior) was elected editor-in-chief.[4] According to The Ogden Standard, “To be elected editor-in-chief of the college paper has always been considered one of the highest honors, and it is of special note that Utah students obtained two of the positions.”[5]

In 1902, Libbie was the first Deaf female Utah college graduate with a bachelor’s degree and the first in her family to have a full college education. She left Washington, D.C. and returned to Ogden, Utah where she began to teach at the USD on September 3, 1902. She continued that position for fifteen years. [6] She is believed to be the first Deaf teacher with a degree to teach at that school.

The 1909 Utah Association of the Deaf Officers. Elizabeth DeLong is center. Courtesy of University of Utah J. Willard Marriott Library.

From the time when the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) was founded in 1880, the affiliated state chapter associations were being established across the country. Libbie proposed the formation of the Utah Association of the Deaf (UAD) for social purposes and welfare needs among USD alumni. On June 10, 1909, the UAD was established at the Utah School for the Deaf.[7] During the voting process on the next day, Libbie won the presidential election by 39 votes by beating two Deaf male candidates, Paul Mark (2 votes) and Melville J. Matheis (2 votes). She made history in becoming the first Deaf female president of the Utah Association of the Deaf and the first Deaf female NAD state chapter association president in the entire nation. This was before the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920 and before women members were first allowed to vote in the NAD election in 1964. [8]

UAD program, 1915. Jodi Becker Kinner.

Libbie served as president of the Utah Association of the Deaf from 1909 to 1915. After serving a second term as UAD president, Libbie gave a talk about women’s suffrage at the UAD Convention in 1915. It may have been possible that Utah’s early suffrage movement influenced Libbie to achieve her educational, political, and spiritual aspirations.

artists' rendering of a new school.

Elizabeth DeLong School of the Deaf. Jacoby Architects.

In October 2019, the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind announced a new Deaf School in Springville, Utah. It was named the “Elizabeth DeLong School of the Deaf.” The school opened on January 6, 2020, a great honor to her legacy.

Libbie died of cancer on September 25, 1931, at the age of 57. Her associates remembered her as a bright and attractive personality. Her nieces and nephews described “Aunt Lib” as the bright, talented woman she was. They also shared, “With a quick wit and a sense of humor, she never let her deafness keep her from enjoying life and making a success of her life. Her devotion to her nieces and nephews was legendary.”[9] Libbie was the first in many of her accomplishments and she has inspired people both in her time and today. Utah is fortunate to have her as an inspirational leader on behalf of the Utah Deaf community.

Jodi Becker Kinner is a Deaf professional and has her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in social work from Gallaudet University. She does extensive research on Utah Deaf history and is passionate about Women’s Studies, in particular how Deaf women have impacted their communities.


[1] Banks, Gladys W. & Banks, Douglas W. “The DeLong Family Saga.”

[2] Ibid

[3] “DeLong and Clark with Driggs to Gallaudet.” The Ogden Standard, September 15, 1897.

[4] “Delong and Clark on Gallaudet Buff and Blue.” The Ogden Standard, June 19, 1901.

[5] Ibid

[6] Banks & Banks

[7] Evans, David S. “A Silent World in the Intermountain West: Records from the Utah School for the Deaf and Blind: 1884-1941.” A thesis presented to the Department of History: Utah State University. 1999.

[8] “From the Minutes.” The UAD Bulletin, vol. 2, no. 10 (Summer 1963): 4 & 5. and “NAD History.”

[9] Banks & Banks.


Jodi Becker Kinner, "Elizabeth DeLong School of the Deaf," Utah Deaf History and Culture. Banks, Gladys W. & Banks, Douglas W. "The DeLong Family Saga." Jodi Becker Kinner, Biographies of Prominent Utah Deaf Women, 2012.