In 1915, the death of 71 year-old Dubliner Sr Gabriel Hogan was reported in Australian and Irish newspapers, where she was described as “an exceptional teacher, mother, guide and model” (Catholic Press, December 2nd 1915). She had, 40 years previously, established the first Catholic deaf school in New South Wales and left a lasting legacy in the provision of deaf education in Australia.
Born in 1844, Ellen Hogan lost her hearing as a result of childhood scarlet fever. At a time when infectious diseases thrived on widespread child poverty and a lack of affordable medical care, acquired hearing loss was a reality for many. The 1851 Census recorded a total of 5,180 deaf people in Ireland, of whom around a tenth had acquired deafness.
When Hogan enrolled in Cabra School for the Deaf, it was one of just six such schools in Ireland – four in Dublin, one in Belfast and one in Strabane, Co Tyrone. The provision of deaf education was an important step because, over time, it resulted in the training of deaf teachers like Hogan. She was unable to pronounce her vows publicly, papal approval had to be sought for her profession
Immersed in Dominican life at the school, and assistant teacher to its 100-or-so pupils by age 13, Hogan wished to become a nun. However, because she was unable to pronounce her vows publicly, papal approval had to be sought for her profession as Sister Gabriel in 1867.