Helen Keller was an American author, speaker and political activist. She earned the B.A. (Bachelor of Arts) degree and was the first deafblind individual to earn it. Though she could not hear or see anything, but with time she learned to communicate thanks to the fantastic works of her teacher as well as her companion, Anne Sullivan. While Sullivan was only eight or ten years old, she had an eye disease called trachoma and eventually became blind. In 1903, Keller published her autobiography called The Story of My Life when she was 22 years old. It was first published in Ladies Home Journal. She founded an organization named Helen Keller International (HKI) in 1915 and published 12 books in total. The site in Alabama where she was born has now turned into museum and each year a ‘Helen Keller Day’ is celebrated on her birthday.
Helping your fellow men were one’s only excuse for being in this world and in the doing of things to help one’s fellows lay the secret of lasting happiness – Helen Keller
Birth and Family
- Her ancestral origin traces back to Swiss native, Casper Keller. One of the members of her Swiss members served as the first instructor for the deaf in Zurich.
- She was born on 27 June, 1880 in Tuscumbia, Alabama.
- The paternal grandmother of Helen was the second cousin of a U.S. general of the American civil war called Robert Edward Lee.
- Her maternal grandfather was the colonel of Confederate states army called Charles Adams.
- Arthur Keller (Helen’s father) served as an editor of North Alabamian. He was also the captain of Confederate States Army (CSA).
- The home where she spent her childhood is called Ivy Green. It was built in 1820 by her grandfather. She had two siblings.
Interesting Facts about Helen Keller
- She was not born deaf and blind. When she was 19 months old, she had a scarlet fever or meningitis and became a cause of her lack of vision and deafness.
- After her illness was diagnosed, she could communicate with one of the daughters of her family cook Martha Washington, who was only six years old. Martha was able to understand what Helen had to say.
- At the age of seven years, Helen was able to talk to her family with 60 home signs.
- At the age of 11, she wrote a short story about King Jack Frost named ‘The Frost King’.
- In her youth, she met an American clergyman and writer named Phillips Brooks. For the first time, Brooks told her about Christianity.
I always knew He was there, but I didn’t know His name – Keller
- Sullivan remained teacher as well as companion of Keller for 49 long years.
- The director of the institute asked Anne Sullivan to become teacher of Keller. Sullivan was only 20 years old at the time but could not see.
- At the time of Anne’s death in 1936, Keller was holding her hand.
- Helen went to 40 countries along with her companion, Anne. She also traveled to Japan for a number of times.
- From Cleveland to Johnson, she had a chance of meeting all of the U.S. Presidents.
- Some of the popular figures among the friends’ list of Keller were Charlie Chaplin, Mark Twain and Alexander Graham Bell.
- When Keller went to Japan in 1937, she asked them about Hachikō (a popular faithful dog). Hachikō was an Akita dog, died in 1935. Keller was given two dogs by Japanese. The name of her first dog was Kamikaze-go and the second one was its brother named Kenzan-go.
- Akita dogs were introduced to the United States for the first time by Keller.
If ever there was an angel in fur, it was Kamikaze. I know I shall never feel quite the same tenderness for any other pet – Keller
- Her mother was inspired by Laura Bridgman, who was the first deaf-blind American kid to seek education in English. She sent her daughter along with her husband to consult Julian Chisolm (a specialist doctor), who sent them both to Alexander Graham Bell. Bell was doing research on the deaf children.
- Bell told Keller and her father to go to Perkins Institute for the Blind. This was the same school where Bridgman was educated.
- In March 1887, Anne Sullivan began teaching Helen Keller by spelling each and every word with Keller’s hands. Sullivan had brought with her a present of doll for Keller so the first word that she spelled into her hands was ‘d-o-l-l’.
- During her initial lessons, Keller would often get frustrated and on one occasion she broke the mug when Sullivan tried to teach her the word, ‘mug’.
- Keller completed her graduation at the age of 24 from Radcliffe College and became the first such person to earn this degree.
- Wilhelm Jerusalem was an Austrian philosopher and pedagogue. He was the pioneer to find out the Keller’s talent for studying literature.
- With time, she started learning the speeches of other people by touching her hands on their lips.
- In 1905, Anne married to John Macy. After nine years of her marriage, her health started going down. When Anne became ill, one of the Herald’s reporters named Peter Fagan served as private secretary of Keller. Keller secretly fell in love with him.
While in her thirties Helen had a love affair, became secretly engaged, and defied her teacher and family by attempting an elopement with the man she loved – The Huffington Post
- Keller spent her entire life for the blind until her death through American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). She served this institution for 40 years and was a prominent figure in introducing Talking Books Program.
- After having a number of strokes in 1968, she eventually died at the age of 87 on June 1, 1968. Her last resting place is in Washington National Cathedral.