Who was Helen Keller?
Helen Keller was an American educator, advocate for the deaf and blind, and co-founder of the ACLU. Afflicted with illness at the age of 2, Keller was left blind and deaf. Beginning in 1887, Keller’s teacher, Anne Sullivan, helped her greatly improve her ability to communicate with her, and Keller went on to college, graduating in 1904. During her lifetime, she received many honors. in recognition of her achievements.
Early life and family
Keller was born on June 27, 1880 in Tuscumbia, Alabama. Keller was the first of two daughters born to Arthur H. Keller and Katherine Adams Keller. Keller’s father had served as an officer in the Confederate army during the Civil war. She also had two older stepbrothers.
The family was not particularly wealthy and earned income from their cotton plantation. Later, Arthur became the editor of a local weekly newspaper, the north alabamia.
Keller was born with his senses of sight and hearing, and he began to speak when he was just 6 months old. She started walking at the age of 1 year.
Loss of sight and hearing
Keller lost both his sight and hearing at 19 months. In 1882, he contracted a disease, called “brain fever” by the family doctor, which caused him to have a high body temperature. The true nature of the disease remains a mystery to this day, although some experts believe it could have been scarlet fever or meningitis.
A few days after the fever subsided, Keller’s mother noticed that her daughter showed no reaction when she rang the dinner bell or waved a hand in front of her face.
As Keller grew into infancy, he developed a limited method of communication with his partner, Martha Washington, the young daughter of the family cook. The two had created a type of sign language. By the time Keller was 7 years old, they had invented more than 60 signs to communicate with each other.
During this time, Keller had also become very wild and unruly. She kicked and screamed when she was angry, and she laughed uncontrollably when she was happy. She tormented Martha and inflicted furious tantrums on her parents. Many family relatives felt that she should be institutionalized.
Keller’s teacher, Anne Sullivan
Keller worked with her teacher ann sullivan for 49 years, from 1887 until Sullivan’s death in 1936. In 1932, Sullivan experienced failing health and lost his sight entirely. A young woman named Polly Thomson, who had started working as a secretary for Keller and Sullivan in 1914, became Keller’s constant companion after Sullivan’s death.
Searching for answers and inspiration, Keller’s mother came across a Charles Dickens travelogue, american Notes, in 1886. She read about the successful education of another deaf-blind girl, Laura Bridgman, and soon sent Keller and her father to Baltimore, Maryland to see specialist Dr. J. Julian Chisolm.
After examining Keller, Chisolm recommended that he see alexander graham bell, the inventor of the telephone, who was working with deaf children at the time. Bell met with Keller and her parents and suggested that they travel to the Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston, Massachusetts.
There, the family met with the school’s principal, Michael Anaganos. He suggested that Keller work with one of the institute’s most recent graduates, Sullivan.
On March 3, 1887, Sullivan went to Keller’s home in Alabama and immediately went to work. He began by teaching six-year-old Keller finger spelling, beginning with the word “doll,” to help Keller understand the gift of a doll he had brought with him. Other words would follow.
At first Keller was curious, then defiant, refusing to cooperate with Sullivan’s instructions. When Keller cooperated, Sullivan realized that he wasn’t matching the objects to the letters spelled out in his hand. Sullivan kept working on it, forcing Keller to stick with the regimen.
As Keller’s frustration grew, the tantrums increased. Eventually, Sullivan demanded that she and Keller be isolated from the rest of the family for a while, so that Keller could focus only on Sullivan’s instruction. They moved to a cabin on the plantation.
In a dramatic fight, Sullivan taught Keller the word “water”; she helped her make the connection between the object and the letters by taking Keller to the water pump and placing Keller’s hand under the spout. As Sullivan moved the lever to spray cold water over Keller’s hand, she spelled the word water into Keller’s other hand. Keller understood and repeated the word into Sullivan’s hand. She then hit the ground, demanding to know her “letter name”. Sullivan followed her, spelling the word into her hand. Keller moved on to other objects with Sullivan in tow. By nightfall, she had learned 30 words.
In 1905, Sullivan married John Macy, a Harvard University professor, social critic, and leading socialist. After the marriage, Sullivan continued to be Keller’s guide and mentor. When Keller moved in with the Macys, they both initially gave Keller their undivided attention. Little by little, however, Anne and John grew apart, as Anne’s devotion to Keller did not diminish. After several years, the couple separated, although they were never divorced.
In 1890, Keller began public speaking classes at the Horace Mann Boston School for the Deaf. She would work for 25 years to learn to speak so that others could understand her.
From 1894 to 1896, Keller attended the Wright-Humason School for the Deaf in New York City. There, she worked on improving her communication skills and studied regular academic subjects.
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Around this time, Keller became determined to attend college. In 1896, she attended the Cambridge School for Young Ladies, a preparatory school for women.
As her story became known to the general public, Keller began meeting famous and influential people. One of them was the writer. Mark Twain, who was very impressed with her. They became friends. Twain introduced him to his friend Henry H. Rogers, a Standard Oil executive.
Rogers was so impressed with Keller’s talent, drive, and determination that he agreed to pay him to attend Radcliffe College. There she was accompanied by Sullivan, who sat next to her to interpret lectures and texts. By this time, Keller had mastered various methods of communication, including lip tactile reading, Braille, speaking, typing, and finger spelling.
Keller graduated, cum laude, from Radcliffe College in 1904, at the age of 24.
‘The story of my life’
With the help of Sullivan and Macy, Sullivan’s future husband, Keller wrote her first book, The story of my life. Published in 1905, the memoir covers Keller’s transformation from boy to 21-year-old college student.
Throughout the first half of the 20th century, Keller addressed social and political issues, including women’s suffrage, pacifism, birth control, and socialism.
After college, Keller set out to learn more about the world and how she could help improve the lives of others. Word of her story spread beyond Massachusetts and New England. Keller became a well-known celebrity and speaker by sharing her experiences with the public and by working on behalf of other people living with disabilities. She testified before Congress, advocating strongly for improving the welfare of blind people.
In 1915, together with renowned urban planner George Kessler, he co-founded Helen Keller International to combat the causes and consequences of blindness and malnutrition. In 1920, she helped found the American Civil Liberties Union.
When the American Federation for the Blind was established in 1921, Keller had an effective national outlet for his efforts. He became a member in 1924 and participated in many campaigns to raise awareness, money, and support for the blind. She also joined other organizations dedicated to helping the less fortunate, including the Permanent War Relief Fund for the Blind (later renamed American Braille Press).
Shortly after graduating from college, Keller became a member of the Socialist Party, probably due in part to his friendship with John Macy. Between 1909 and 1921, he wrote several articles on socialism and supported Eugene Debs, the Socialist Party’s presidential candidate. His series of essays on socialism, titled “Out of the Dark”, described his views on socialism and world affairs.
It was during this time that Keller first experienced public prejudice about his disabilities. For most of her life, the press had been overwhelmingly supportive, praising her courage and intelligence. But after she expressed her socialist views, some of her criticized her by calling her attention to her disabilities. a newspaper, the brooklyn eaglehe wrote that its “mistakes arose from the manifest limitations of its development”.
In 1946, Keller was appointed international relations adviser to the American Foundation for the Blind Abroad. Between 1946 and 1957 he traveled to 35 countries on five continents.
In 1955, at age 75, Keller embarked on the longest and most grueling journey of his life: a five-month, 40,000-mile journey through Asia. Through her numerous speeches and appearances, she brought inspiration and encouragement to millions of people.
Movie “The Miracle Worker”
Keller’s autobiography The story of my lifewas used as the basis for the 1957 television drama the miracle worker.
In 1959, the story was made into a Broadway play of the same title, starring Patty Duke as Keller and Anne Bancroft as Sullivan. The two actresses also played those roles in the award-winning 1962 film version of the play.
Awards and honors
During his lifetime, he received many honors in recognition of his achievements, including the Theodore Roosevelt Distinguished Service Medal in 1936, Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964, and election to the Women’s Hall of Fame in 1965.
Keller also received honorary doctorates from Temple University and Harvard University and from the universities of Glasgow, Scotland; Berlin Germany; Delhi, India; and Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. She was made an Honorary Member of the Scottish Educational Institute.
Keller died in his sleep on June 1, 1968, just weeks short of his 88th birthday. Keller suffered a series of strokes in 1961 and spent the remaining years of his life in his Connecticut home.
During his remarkable life, Keller was a powerful example of how determination, hard work, and imagination can enable a person to triumph over adversity. By overcoming difficult conditions with great persistence, she became a respected and world-renowned activist who worked for the betterment of others.