Greatest Women in Translation: Deanna Hammond

Welcome back to our wonderful and inspiring Greatest Women in Translation series!

Our last interviewee, Muriel Vasconcellos, decided to write a tribute to her role model, Deanna Hammond, whose life was cut short by pancreatic cancer at the age of 55.


Deanna Lindberg Hammond (1942-1997)

My nomination for this month’s Greatest Woman in Translation is a colleague who unfortunately is no longer with us. More than anyone I ever worked with, Deanna Hammond deserves to be recognized for the breadth of her contributions to the profession. She enriched the field and set an example in many different roles: not only as the head of an important translation service and a hands-on practitioner of the craft, but also as a leader of the translation community in the United States, an author, and a teacher. Her life was cut short by pancreatic cancer at the age of 55.

Best known for her work with the American Translators Association, Deanna held a “day job” for 20 years as head of Linguistic Services at the Congressional Research Service, overseeing translations for the United States Congress. Her section was responsible for translating anything that members of the Senate and Congress, or their offices, wanted to read in English or present in another language, from international treaties to news clippings, from legislation to letters from constituents, with scientific papers and research proposals in between. She also reviewed translations done by other colleagues and contracted the services of private translation companies for large projects and languages not covered by CRS staff. Even after her illness prevented her from going into the office, she remained on the payroll and continued to translate documents at home. She was posthumously awarded the Library of Congress Distinguished Service Award, a high honor granted for “contributions of great significance.”

While shouldering this serious responsibility, Deanna also found time to contribute unstintingly to the advancement of our profession. During her two decades of service with the ATA, she was active in many of its efforts to raise public awareness about the work and professionalism of translators. First elected to its Board of Directors in 1979, she served two terms as secretary of the Association and ultimately held the positions of president-elect (1987-1989) and president (1989-1991). As president-elect, she organized two annual conferences attended by nearly 1,000 members and negotiated contracts for meeting venues for six years into the future. She embarked on her presidency with the intention of putting ATA’s house in order, an effort that included rewriting the Association’s bylaws and moving ATA headquarters to the Washington, D.C., area. In addition, she worked on improving the accreditation program and increasing the number of translation courses and degrees offered by higher learning institutions across the United States. While striving to advance the profession, she also found herself facing challenges that arose with wisdom and integrity. Her contributions were acknowledged in 1992 with the Association’s highest award, the Alexander Gode medal for distinguished service to the translation profession.

Deanna also served the profession in other capacities — for example, as head of the U.S. delegation to the Statutory Congress of the International Translation Federation in 1990 and as president of the Interlingua Institute from 1993 until her death.

She took an interest in machine translation and provided extensive advice during the formative years of the International Association for Machine Translation and the Association for Machine Translation in the Americas. In this role, she and I worked closely together. Her wisdom and experience were key to taking what had been an idea sketched out on the back of an envelope, so to speak, and transforming it into a vibrant worldwide system. We were both committed to seeing that MT was used for appropriate applications and not as a substitute for real translation.

In addition, Deanna published extensively on professional issues in the field of translation, authoring articles in such publications as the Congressional Record, the Modern Language Journal, the Annals of Political Science, and the ATA Chronicle. She was also editor Volume VII of the ATA Monograph Series, Professional Issues for Translators and Interpreters.

Whenever she had knowledge or experience to share, Deanna was a tireless mentor. She was especially committed to supporting aspiring translators. She taught courses in Spanish-to-English translation at The American University in Washington, D.C., in the early 1990s and at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, from 1993 until 1996. In fact, she was a teacher before she was a translator. Her first job was as a teacher at the superior school in Pullman, Washington. She then traveled to Colombia, South America, where she taught English as a second language from 1964 to 1967, first in Medellín as a Peace Corps volunteer and later at the Industrial University of Santander. She also taught ESL at Northern Virginia Community College from 1974 to 1977. In addition, she was an active member of the Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese.

Born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, in 1942 of a Canadian father and an American mother, Deanna spent her early years in the area of Port Angeles, Washington. She earned a bachelor’s degree at Washington State University, a master’s degree in linguistics from the University of Ohio, and a Ph.D. in Spanish linguistics from Georgetown University. She was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Beta Phi honor societies.

Her life of devotion to service extended beyond translation. In the 1990s, as her participation in ATA came to a close, she became active in Zonta International, a worldwide organization of executives in business and the professions working together to advance the status of women. She was president of her local Alexandria Club and was ultimately appointed East Coast International Chair.

Deanna was the consummate professional.  Her energy, commitment, and integrity inspired the people around her to do and be their best. The bar that she set would be hard to match. Yet with all the activities on her plate, she still found the space in her life to be a delightful and loyal friend. Her sunny personality and her willingness to help others never faltered. Another colleague, Jane Morgan Zorrilla, summed her up perfectly:

I have never met anyone so outgoing despite her shy nature, so serious despite her wild sense of humor, so focused despite the thousand ongoing projects in her head, and so compassionate despite the antagonism that her determination sometimes brought out in others.


The material for this article came from Deanna’s Wikipedia entry, an obituary by Jane Morgan Zorrilla at the link above, other obituaries, and personal recollections.


Since we reached a dead end, our next interviewee will be, once again, nominated by me. This time, I decided to choose one of my Brazilian role models, Melissa Harkin.

4 thoughts on “Greatest Women in Translation: Deanna Hammond

  1. Pingback: Greatest Women in Translation: Melissa Harkin | Carol's Adventures in Translation

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