On June 27, 1880, Helen Keller was born in Tuscumbia, Alabama. She was
physically healthy until the age of nineteen months when she contracted
what seemed to be scarlet fever and lost her hearing and sight.
As she grew into childhood, she developed an unruly temper and became
unmanageable. In 1887, her parents, Arthur and Kate Keller, contacted the
Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston for a teacher and hired Anne
Sullivan, herself visually impaired, who came to their home.
Anne taught Helen how to read and write in Braille and how to use hand signals to understand and communicate with others. This was illustrated in the Pulitzer Prize winning play, and subsequent movie, The Miracle Worker.
With Anne repeating the lectures into Helens hand, Helen graduated with
a Bachelor of Arts cum laude from Radcliffe College in 1904. During her
junior year at Radcliffe, she wrote her first book, The Story of My Life,
which is still in print and translated into over fifty languages. She
wrote other books about her personal experiences, religion, contemporary
social problems, her travels, and a biography of Anne Sullivan. She wrote
many articles for national magazines and newspapers about concerns of the
blind, the underprivileged, workers rights, womens suffrage, helping
others and other causes.
In 1924 she joined the staff of the newly formed American Foundation for the Blind and served as an adviser, fundraiser and in other capacities for over forty years. She had a warm personality, was well traveled and was outspoken about her convictions, all of which contributed to her international popularity and notoriety. Her impact as an educator, advocate, organizer, lecturer, political activist, writer and fundraiser was enormous. She was responsible for many advances in public services to the deaf and blind and other causes.
Helen was widely honored throughout the world, received honorary doctoral degrees, and invited to the White House by every president from Grover Cleveland to Lyndon Johnson.
Her courage, intelligence and dedication made her a symbol of faith and strength through adversity. She sustained a stroke in 1960 and lived quietly at her home until her death on June 1, 1968. At her memorial service, Senator Lister Hill of Alabama said, She will live on, one of the few, the immortal names not born to die. Her spirit will endure as long as man can read and stories can be told of the woman who showed the world there are no boundaries to courage and faith.”