Alexander Graham Bell, in love

Marilyn Terrell of National Geographic Traveler magazine says, "I thought you might like this sweet story about Alexander Graham Bell, who was a 27-yr-old Scottish speech therapist and part-time inventor when he fell madly in love with 17-yr-old Mabel Gardiner Hubbard, who was deaf, and whose father was the first president of the National Geographic Society."

Mabel Gardiner Hubbard was only five years old when scarlet fever rendered her deaf for life. At the age of 17, she would meet a young Scottish speech therapist who was destined to shape her life. Gardiner Greene Hubbard, Mabel’s father and National Geographic’s first president, took a liking to the industrious teacher and part-time inventor. We know him better as Alexander Graham Bell. This is their love story.

The 27-year-old Alexander fell in love with Mabel when she was 17, but it was an unreciprocated fancy. “He was tall and dark with jet-black hair and eyes, but dressed badly and carelessly,” she said. “I could never marry such a man!” Despite her initial disinterest, she began to grow fond of him during his time as her speech teacher and their relationship evolved. After one of her first classes with him, a giddy Mabel wrote to her mother: “Mr. Bell said today my voice is naturally sweet.” In a letter to Mabel on the night of their engagement, Alexander wrote, “I am afraid to fall asleep, lest I should find it all a dream — so I shall lie awake and think of you.”

Read the rest here.

Photo: Mabel Hubbard Bell and Alexander Graham Bell. (National Geographic Society)


  1. If you’ve never read it, there’s a book called “Explorer’s House” about the beginnings of National Geographic and much of the AGB and Mabel story is in there.  It’s a great book!

  2. Does it also mention how he was fond of eugenics as a strategy for ridding the earth of broken people like his wife? Not romantic to me, some one with deafness in my family.  Not romantic at all when you consider he opposed deaf people having languages and schools of their own, and when you see the the things that happened to people like my grandmother  who was deprived of education until her teens and sent to schools where kids seriously died as a result of abuse because she was “too” deaf to learn to talk and God forbid they use their hands to talk. The legacy and history here is ugly and mean. 

    Did he help? Sure, the phone is a great invention for hearing people! Was he 100% pure grade evil? No. But it’s hard to find it… inspiring.

  3. Thanks, Xeni.  This love story is bringing out some intriguing belief systems.  Hopefully the posts will continue so we can examine them.  Love the speech therapist, inventor of the telephone (speech oriented), falling in love with a deaf person, and surname “Bell” – who says the universe has no humor  : )

  4. 27 and 17?  Sounds more like a creeper than a romantic, although I suppose my perspective may be ethnocentric or whatever the appropriate term is when applied to time travel.

    1. Ha, that was my thought exactly; what a prevert, yes, prevert.
      As far as the romantic letters, that was the trend back then.  Loads and loads of romantic poetry, though by this point Romanticism had seen its peak and was faced by the Realism opposition.  I’m not sure if all that romantic babble was just a trend, since it was so common.  I wonder how many of those love stricken gents actually felt or believed what they wrote.  Actions speak louder than words, especially in AGB’s case with Miss Mabel, so if he was preaching against deaf marriages and procreation, no amount of romantic prose could make him a man worthy of her love.  This makes me think of the Titanic movie, and people referring to it as a love story.  How can it be a love story, when if Kate had only taken off that gigantic skirt of hers, she would’ve made room on that raft and saved Leonardo.  There’s no love there, it was completely selfish of her, and she deserved to suffer with guilt for the rest of her life.  Love, pfft.

Comments are closed.