Part 5 Summary

The first official gathering of what is now called the American Speech-Hearing-Language Association took place in 1925 at an informal meeting of the Speech Association of America in New York City (ASHA, 2021; ASHA archives, 2021). The group of 25 charter members formed an organization called the American Academy of Speech Correction. These teachers, clinicians, physicians, administrators, students, and academics brought with them a set of ideas and practices that were loosely grouped together to shape the emerging profession. Several of the charter members of the newly minted organization had close ties to the European “speech doctors” and their affiliates. For example, Smiley Blanton had been in psychotherapy with Freud, and drew from psychoanalytic theory in his practices, Max Goldstein was devotee and follower of Victor Urbantschitsch and used his mentor’s speech training method with deaf students in America, and Elmer Kenyon, an otolaryngologist studied with Hermann Gutzmann Sr. in Germany and brought Gutzmann’s ideas back to Chicago, where he taught students about Gutzmann’s methods at a speech clinic he established at Rush Medical College.

These European mentors influenced not only a few of ASHA’s charter members. They also participated directly and indirectly in all aspects of American’s forming profession. (See here for but a few of the many Europeans who influenced Americans during the time that ASHA was being formed. Also listed are a few influential Americans who received training in Europe and imported what they learned to the fledgling profession in the US.)

Many of America’s earliest leaders in the new field travelled to Europe to study with the German and Austrian “speech doctors.” One well-known example was Edward Wheeler Scripture, who was said to be America’s first speech scientist. And there were others, like James Sonnet Greene who returned to America to create clinics and to lobby for training of professionals to provide services to those with speech problems.

Following the second world war, a number of those same “speech doctors” along with their European students emigrated to America. Once in the US, they taught and worked with Americans, interacted regularly with their American colleagues at meetings and formal conferences, and published their own research in English so that it could be read by their contemporaries and by future generations of speech pathologists.

Not all American speech pathologists of this period appreciated the contributions of their European forefathers. Charles Van Riper, for example, complained that the editor of the new Journal of Speech Disorders, G. Oscar Russell, appointed “European authorities” to the editorial board. He comments, ethnocentrically, “…there was a very definite foreign flavor and an aura of pomposity that many of us young Turks did not appreciate” (Van Riper, 1981, p. 858). This negative attitude toward the important contributions of ASHA’s parentage should not be perpetuated. Today’s global perspectives militate against the view that a “foreign flavor” brings with it an aura of pomposity. Rather, the efforts in this essay argue that to leave out the these contributions is to ignore an essential part of ASHA’s early history.

ASHA’s 100th year anniversary offers today’s speech-language pathologists and audiologists an incentive to explore their origins. These origin stories will feature the profession’s beginnings and early accomplishments. While these stories should rightfully include the important work of our American pioneers who founded ASHA in 1925 and shortly after, they should also feature the accomplishments and influences of the European scholars and clinicians who helped mentor their American colleagues as they were working to create an American version of the profession that their mentors had been creating in Europe.

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