“So much has been given to me I have not time to ponder over that which has been denied.” – Helen Keller
Born on June 27, 1880, in Tuscumbia, Alabama, Helen Keller lost both her sight and hearing after contracting an unknown illness, now believed to be meningitis or scarlet fever, at the age of nineteen months.
At seven years old, Helen’s life took a transformative turn when her parents hired Anne Sullivan, a teacher from the Perkins Institute for the Blind, to educate her. Anne utilized an innovative finger-spelling technique to communicate with Helen, touching her hand in various gestures representing alphabet letters. With this method, Helen learned to read, write, and speak.
Helen would say about working with Anne, “The most important day I remember in all my life is the one on which my teacher, Anne Mansfield Sullivan, came to me. I am filled with wonder when I consider the immeasurable contrasts between the two lives which it connects. It was the third of March, 1887, three months before I was seven years old.”
Helen’s education continued at Radcliffe College, where she made history by becoming the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, graduating cum laude in 1904.
Building upon her education, Helen published numerous books and articles. Her best-known work, “The Story of My Life,” provides profound insights into her world. And as her following grew, she used her platform to advocate for various causes, including women’s suffrage, labor rights, and particularly the rights of those with disabilities. And she played a crucial role in founding the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in 1920.
Throughout her life, Helen received numerous awards for her work, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964. She passed away on June 1, 1968.
Note: The photograph is of Helen at 24-years-old in 1904.
“A snapshot biography of Helen Keller” sources: Helen Keller, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing right. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/94515457/>.
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- This story was updated on May 31st, 2023.