27 June 2018 Blogs

Happy Birthday, Helen Keller!

Today marks the 138th birthday of American author, educator, and humanitarian Helen Keller. Helen Adams Keller was born in Tuscumbia, Alabama on June 27, 1880. When she was only 19 months old, she was afflicted by an unknown illness that left her deaf and blind. As Helen grew, she felt isolated and became unruly. She frequently threw raging tantrums, but her parents, Arthur H. Keller and Kate Adams Keller, didn’t lose hope. They had her examined by famed inventor and teacher of the deaf Alexander Graham Bell when she was 6 years old.  Bell advised the family to contact the Perkins Institution for the Blind, located in Massachusetts. Michael Anagnos, the school’s director recommended Helen work with Anne Sullivan, a recent graduate of the school. On March 3, 1887, Anne arrived in Tuscumbia and began teaching Helen how to communicate. Anne used the manual alphabet to teach Helen how to associate words with objects. Helen’s breakthrough moment came during a fingerspelling lesson on April 5, 1887, when Anne held one of Helen’s hands under the spout of a water pump. As the water flowed over Helen’s hand, Anne spelled out the word “w-a-t-e-r” into the palm of Helen’s other hand. Helen made the connection that “water” meant the substance gushing over her hand. She learned 30 words by nightfall. Helen mastered the manual alphabet and Braille by the time she was 10. She learned how to speak and with Anne’s assistance, graduated with honors from Radcliffe College in 1904. Helen became an author and public speaker. In 1903, Helen’s autobiography, The Story of My Life, was published. To this day, The Story of My Life, remains in print and has been translated into 50 languages. In addition to publishing several books and essays, Helen was a frequent contributor to newspapers and magazines. Helen became a well-known lecturer and celebrity by sharing her personal experiences and advocating for people with disabilities. She tackled political and social issues, including workers’ rights and women’s suffrage. She performed vaudeville and made two films about her life, Deliverance and The Unconquered. In 1924, Helen joined the American Foundation for the Blind. She was an advisor and fundraiser for the organization for over 40 years. Anne remained Helen’s beloved teacher and companion until she passed away at the age of seventy on October 20, 1936. Their relationship was depicted in William Gibson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, The Miracle Worker, which opened on Broadway on October 19, 1959. The play was made into a successful motion picture in 1962, winning two Academy Awards. Anne Bancroft won the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance as Anne Sullivan. Her co-star Patty Duke, received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Helen Keller. On June 1, 1968, Helen Keller died, a few weeks shy of her 88th birthday. She is remembered for dedicating her life to improving the lives of disabled people worldwide. Learn more about Helen’s remarkable life and legacy through these websites available in SIRS Issues Researcher and ProQuest Research Topics available in eLibrary: Anne Sullivan Research Topic Helen Keller Biography and Chronology Helen Keller Research Topic The Story of My Life by Helen Keller Who Was Helen Keller?  Subscribe via email to Share This and never miss a post.