Ann Meyers Kaplan’s family moved to Seattle from New York City in 1910 when Ann was three. Her father opened a tailoring business in Pioneer Square. For Ann’s parents and many Russian émigrés like them, the Settlement House and the socialist-leaning Workmen’s Circle were centers of Jewish community life. A graduate of Garfield High School, Ann worked as a bookkeeper in Seattle, later moving to San Francisco. She returned to Seattle after eloping with Ben Kaplan in 1935, who wooed her long-distance for three years. For the next 50 years, Ann served as bookkeeper in his company. After their daughter lost her hearing at age three, Ann devoted much of her time to seeking experimental treatments, advocating for the hearing impaired, and raising a second child, a son.
“Maxine my daughter got sick. She had the mumps and lost her hearing. We talked to her and she wouldn’t answer us. All of a sudden she’s not hearing anything.
“I never knew anything about deaf people, so I was devastated. We went to the Swedish Hospital. The doctor said, ‘She’s got a nerve deafness. It will never come back.’ That was a bad time for me. So I took Maxine to Florida by train. They took her up in an airplane and made a quick drop down to see if they can open up the Eustachian tube in her ear. Nothing happened. I decided to come home.
“I needed some help myself. But there was no place where I could go to cope with a deaf child. So it was brought to our attention through the newspaper that there was a healer in Oregon who had done work with deaf children and they’d gotten their hearing back. And I thought, ‘Well, as my last resort, maybe she can do something’ So I was there for about a month one summer. She didn’t help Maxine. But I met a lot of women with sick children. I found out that my condition wasn’t the worst. It helped me mentally, actually. It made me realize that Maxine being deaf was not the worst thing in the world.”
“So I kept her home rather than institutionalize her, took her to Summit School every morning, took her to the Speech and Hearing Center, and gave her lessons in speech, in lip reading. I could see the difference, and I finally felt that I could accept it and do all I could.
“I still was mad at God for doing that to me. But Maxine grew up wanting to be Jewish. She loved Sunday school. We became members of the Herzl Congregation. We started the Deaf PTA. I have a picture of when they were in school. My daughter was around ten years old. They’re sitting around a group hearing aid. And you know who gave that to them? The National Council of Jewish Women.”
© 2004 Jewish Women’s Archive. Photographs by Joan Roth.