Birthday: June 27, 1880
Died At Age: 87
Also Known As: Helen Adams Keller
Born Country: United States
Born In: Tuscumbia, Alabama, United States
Famous As: Author
Spouse/Ex-: John Macy
Father: Arthur H. Keller
Mother: Kate Adams, Kate Adams Keller
Died On: June 1, 1968
Place Of Death: Arcan Ridge, Easton, Connecticut, United States
Cause Of Death: Natural Causes
U.S. State: Alabama
Diseases & Disabilities: Visual Impairment
Helen was born a normal child but catastrophe struck when she was just 19months old. She had contracted an illness described by doctors as ‘an acute congestion of the stomach and the brain’, which today researchers believe might have been scarlet fever or meningitis. This terrible illness left her both deaf and blind.
Being deaf and blind at such a young age and at a time when no modern techniques of teaching existed was a great challenge for little Helen. She was pushed into a dark and quiet world of her own with absolutely no means to communicate with others. But Helen would not give up! Though very frustrated in her early years and often displaying violent outbursts of anger due to her inability to communicate, she eventually developed a series of signs to let her parents know what she had in mind. She was known to be a mischievous child who delighted in locking people in rooms as soon as she learned the propose of a key.
By the age of five and even before she had any sort of training, she knew how to fold dry clothes from the laundry, and recognized her own from others. She knew how to dress on her own, how to ask for ice cream using signs, nod her head to say ‘yes’ or shake to say ‘no’, pull to ‘come’ and push to ‘go’.
Helen’s mother had consulted a physician. J.Julian Chisolm, for any possible way to train Helen to learn and Chisolm referred the Kellers to Alexander Graham Bell (yes, the very same Alexander who invented the telephone) who had been working with deaf children at the time. Bell advised them to contact the Perkins Institute for the Blind. The school’s director requested a former student, 20-year-old Anne Sullivan, herself visually impaired, to become Keller’s instructor and this was the turning point in Helen’s Life.
Sullivan used unique methods to train little Helen. She would pour cold water over Helen’s hands and then spell W-A-T-E-R in her palm. It took a while for Helen to realize that each thing had a unique name to be identified with. Once she understood that, Helen exhausted her teacher by demanding the names of everything she could lay her hands on Sullivan reminded a faithful mentor, friend and companion to Helen throughout her life.
Helen started attending the Perkins Institute for the Blind and later, Helen and Anne Sullivan moved to New York to attend the Wright-Humason School for the Deaf. Afterwards Helen joined The Cambridge School for Young Ladies and then moved on to Radcliffe College and become the first deaf-blind individual to receive a Bachelor’s degree in Arts.
Determined to communicate with others as conventionally as possible, Keller learnt to speak and spent and spent much for her life giving speeches and lectures. She learned to ‘hear’ people’s speech by reading their lips with her hands. She become proficient at using Braille and at reading sign language with her hands as well. She even at tempted to ‘listen’ to music by placing her hands on a resonant tabletop.
Helen went on to become a world-famous speaker and author. She wrote 12 books and innumerable articles. The first one was just 11years old. She travelled worldwide, raised funds for the blind and was even part of commission elected to investigate the conditions of the blind. She personally met 13 US Presidents of her time, from Grover Cleveland to Lyndon B. Johnson and was a close friend to many famous figures, including Alexander Graham Bell, Charlie Chaplin and Mark Twain.
Unlike many disabled people of her time, Helen refused to live in seclusion. Instead, she earned fame as a writer, humanitarian and social activist.
SHE WAS PUSHED INTO A DARK AND QUIET WORLD OF HER OWN WITH ABSOLUTELY NO MEANS TO COMMUNICATE WITH OTHERS. BUT HELEN WOULD NOT GIVE UP!