Louise Tracy bigraphy, stories - American founder of a deaf school

Louise Tracy : biography

July 31, 1896 - November 13, 1983

Louise Tracy, born Louise Ten Broeck Treadwell, (July 31, 1896 – November 13, 1983) was the founder of the John Tracy Clinic, a private, non-profit education center for the deaf that began in 1942. She was married to the Academy Award-winning actor Spencer Tracy.

The John Tracy Clinic

In July 1942, Louise Tracy spoke for the first time on her experience as the mother of a deaf child at the University of Southern California at a banquet for the National Workshop of Social Workers and teachers and Parents of the Hard of Hearing. Louise spoke frequently and with increasing skill to numerous clubs and groups. It was during this time, that she and a group of mothers of deaf children decided to start a school in Los Angeles for young deaf children and their parents. The John Tracy Clinic, named after her son, was the result.

During the first years of the John Tracy Clinic, and particularly the first few months, Louise established many of the aspects of the Clinic's philosophy. She stressed the importance of parents being involved in the education of their children at a very young age and set up a program for them. Louise firmly believed that the Clinic should offer both information and support at no charge.

Louise's husband Spencer supported her work with the Clinic and was its sole financial support in the beginning. In April 1951, Spencer turned the world premiere of his new film, Father's Little Dividend, at Grauman's Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, into a building fund-raiser for the Clinic's new site. Spencer's support was always strong, and over the years he personally donated more than a half a million dollars to the Clinic. His admiration for his wife was another constant. At the dedication of the new Clinic building in 1952, he said to the visiting dignitaries, staff and press:

"You honor me because I am a movie actor, a star in Hollywood terms. Well, there's nothing I've ever done that can match what Louise has done for deaf children and their parents."


Louise Tracy died at the age of 87 after a lengthy illness.


Louise Ten Broeck Treadwell's parents were Alliene Wetmore and Bright (Smith) Treadwell. Alliene Treadwell was a prominent attorney and part owner of the New Castle Daily News in New Castle, Pennsylvania. Louise's parents divorced when she was a teenager.

In 1915, Louise Treadwell enrolled at Lake Erie College in Painesville, Ohio and graduated with honors. During the next several years, she pursued an acting career as a stage actor, primarily in stock companies. In early March 1923, Louise joined the Leonard Wood Players in White Plains, New York, which engaged her as the leading lady. There she met actor Spencer Tracy, who had also joined the company. On September 12, 1923, Louise and Spencer were married in Cincinnati, Ohio.

On June 26, 1924, Louise and Spencer's first child John was born. Ten months later, Louise discovered that John was hearing impaired. Early in 1926 Louise met a deaf woman at a contract bridge party who could lip read very well, encouraging Louise that John might have a normal life in spite of his deafness. She took John to a hearing specialist, who confirmed a diagnosis of nerve deafness. The doctor told Louise that even though there was no medical treatment, John could still learn how to talk, lip read, and do anything a hearing person could do.

With new hope, Louise began working with John, using material from different schools. In 1927, John spoke the word "Mama" for the first time. In June 1927, John was enrolled in the Wright Oral School for the deaf in New York City. At three years of age, he was the youngest child they had ever accepted.

In the summer of 1930, Spencer Tracy went to Hollywood, California to make his first film. John and Louise also traveled to Hollywood while Spencer was filming. On the train back to New York, John was struck with infantile paralysis.

In July 1932, the Tracys' daughter Susie was born, and by March 1935 the family moved to a ranch in Encino, California, where they lived for 19 years. During the 1930s, Louise and Spencer both began playing polo and became accomplished players.

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