The Washington Post recognizes former deaf printers

Back in the old days, it was very common that deaf people would have jobs as printers. The Washington Post recently published an article recognizing the deaf printers that used to work at The Post.

A printer’s job would be laying out the type for news stories, made up the advertisements, and get the pages ready to be transmitted to the presses.

Janie Golightly, one of the deaf printers, mentioned there was about 200 deaf people that worked for The Washington Post in the 1960’s. As the years went by, the numbers dwindled. In 2001, things switched to technology so printers were no longer needed.

Brian Greenwald, a history professor at Gallaudet University and his colleague, Jean Bergey, runs the Schuchman Deaf Documentary Center which plans to create an online exhibit about deaf printers.

Whenever they get funding for this, they will begin with the online exhibit.

The Daily Moth reached out to some of the deaf printers to share their experiences about what it was like working at The Post.



That’s where I met him, at The Washington Post. So, it’s really all thanks to The Washington Post that I got to meet him, and we got married! You’re right. I can’t believe that it’s been 44 years. We need to keep it going to 88 years of marriage! It’s been wonderful working at that place. There are no communication barriers at work. Everyone, even those who are hearing, know some extent of sign language. Some of them do prefer to fingerspell. It’s just such a wonderful company to work for.


Kathy Graham, who owned The Washington Post, always gave us support when we were printing. During the Deaf President Now (DPN), they were extra watchful of how they used certain words. Like with ‘hearing impaired’, I would insist that they used ‘deaf’ or ‘hard of hearing’ instead. Both of these words are more appropriate, you know. They were receptive to that and made that change. All 7 days during the week of DPN, they would print about DPN on the front page every day. Then we ended up winning the case.


Okay, it’s been a long time, so they all knew how to sign. I’d worked there for 31 years. I met my wife while I was working there as well. So, I’ve really enjoyed these 31 years, looking back now, and I’ve enjoyed working with 150 other deaf people.


I met my husband at work atl The Washington Post as a printer. We worked in the same department, on the same shift and on the same days, and had the same days off. We even worked near each other. We were smokers then and when we sat near each other, I would subtly ask if he wanted to go out for a smoke break. We would always go out on our smoke breaks together then come back to work. Many people would wonder if we would ever tire of each other. Our response always, “No way! We’ll never get tired of each other!”


When I worked for that person, often when there was someone missing at work, the union chairman would follow this list set up by priority. Whenever someone was off, someone else would get the shift, but there were some frustrations. Some of them wouldn’t get work and have to wait until the next shift or the next day. But deaf people often, as the situation holder, I’d be aware of the time off plans until the next day, I would look for deaf people to substitute. If they wanted the shift, then they’d come with me to meet with the supervisor. I’d tell him that I want them to work for me. I want to help deaf people get these jobs. That’s a part of the bond we all have, we support each other. It’s a really nice feeling!


With them, I’d always look forward to seeing them at work every day. They’re like siblings. Whenever I work at home, when I’m having car troubles, I know I have this one co-worker who’s really good with repairing cars. I have someone to consult with to help me figure it out. It’s the same with another co-worker who knows a lot about the plumbing. I can work with that friend and that’s how we all have something to offer to each other. They’ve been a wonderful family!


Okay, I worked as one of the printers in the ITU. I traveled a lot including California, Texas and a bunch of other states. When it comes to The Washington Post, the reason I really love that place, was because there were so many brilliant deaf people there including in sports, economics, politics, advice and more! I could always ask each one of them about the current trends instead of reading the newspaper. They would just tell me via ASL. I would ask them all the time and it was like I had my own encyclopedia. I truly enjoyed working with these people and how we all shared resources.


I want to thank The Washington Post for giving me all these wonderful years. Having that bond’s been beautiful and having that life, these experiences and all…just Champ! Every deaf person I’ve met who’s worked at The Washington Post, but left for another job, or they got married or they moved to another state; they’d always say The Washington Post is still the best. They’re the champ and I tip my hat off to The Washington Post for being such a great place to work at.


Renca: Thank you all for sharing your experience.

Golightly said that this group is the last of the deaf printers. It is important to treasure this history within our Deaf community.

Amazing how time has changed with how news is delivered. Can you imagine if The Daily Moth started in the 1960’s? I wonder what our news would look like.

Text: [If you’d like to make a contribution to support the Deaf Printers Online Exhibition Fund, please go to the link in the transcript]



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