The Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women

Features thousands of biographic and thematic essays on Jewish women around the world. Learn more

Marlee Matlin

b. August 24, 1965

by JWA Staff
Our work to expand the Encyclopedia is ongoing. We are providing this brief biography for Marlee Matlin until we are able to commission a full entry.

Matlee Matlin receiving a Hollywood Walk of Fame Star in May 2009.

Courtesy of Angela George/Wikimedia Commons.

Marlee Matlin made history in 1986 as both the youngest actress to win an Academy Award for Best Leading Actress and the first deaf person to win the award. Matlin lost her hearing when she was eighteen months old. Despite this, she challenged herself both in life and acting, making her stage debut in a children’s version of the Wizard of Oz at age seven and reading Torah at her bat mitzvah. Her stage performances led to her discovery by TV actor Henry Winkler, who became her mentor. At age 21 she played the lead role in Children of a Lesser God, for which she won both a Golden Globe and an Oscar. Matlin flourished in strong female roles that reflected the way deaf people spoke: a mixture of sign language and spoken dialogue. She earned critical praise and award nominations for her recurring roles on shows like Picket Fences, Seinfeld, Law & Order: SVU, The Practice, The L Word, and West Wing. In 2008 she competed on Dancing with the Stars. Matlin wrote a novel, Deaf Child Crossing, in 2002 and a memoir, I’ll Scream Later, in 2009. That year, she was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Marlee Matlin." (Viewed on September 27, 2021) <>.


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