Helen Keller was born a normal, healthy baby in 1880 in Alabama.
At 19 months of age she developed a dangerous fever (now believed
to have been Scarlet Fever) which left her blind and deaf.
As she grew from toddler to infant, without the ability to
see or hear, Keller became a frustrated child, unable to learn
how to behave normally. Her frustration grew into violent
fits and temper tantrums. This behavior became too much for
her family who sought help in teaching their child to independently
survive in the world. They found a sight-impaired teacher
named Anne Sullivan to work with Keller.
Sullivan spelled words into Keller's palm to define objects
such as "doll" and "plate." However, in
the beginning, these words and the objects they defined did
not register with Keller and she remained confused and frustrated.
One day in 1887, Sullivan pumped water from a water pump
onto Keller's hand. In the other hand she spelled the word
"water." Suddenly Keller's face changed, a light
bulb came on in her head and the connection was made. Keller
learned over thirty words within the next hour.
Keller, under the tutelage of Sullivan, never stopped searching
and working for knowledge. She was the first blind deaf person
to be enrolled into an institution of higher learning when
she entered Radcliffe College in 1890. Four years later, she
would become the first deaf blind person to earn a Bachelor
of Arts degree. While at Radcliffe, Keller wrote and published
the autobiographical work "The Story of My Life."
Keller and Sullivan made a living by touring the world and
telling the story of how they connected Keller with language.
What started out as touring led to a vaudeville type performance
that recreated the moment when Sullivan pumped water over
Keller's hand while spelling the word "water" into
the other hand. The performance was followed by a question
and answer forum where Sullivan would spell the questions
from the audience into Keller's hand and then translate the
In addition to touring and performing, Keller worked very
hard to improve conditions for the blind and deaf. Her fundraising
efforts did much to raise awareness about the terrible conditions
in asylums and institutions.
In 1936, Anne Sullivan died. Keller continued to travel the
world fundraising for the blind. In 1953, an Academy Award
winning documentary film was created about the life of Helen
Keller called "The Unconquered." In 1955, Keller
published her tribute to Anne Sullivan, "Teacher."
In 1959, "The Miracle Worker" debuted as a Broadway
play and later became a feature film about the lives and relationship
of Keller and Sullivan.
President Lyndon B. Johnson awarded Keller the American Medal
of Freedom in 1964, and a year later, she was inducted into
the Women's Hall of Fame. Keller died in her sleep in 1968
as one of the most famous women in modern history. She taught
the world that anyone is teachable and that disabilities do
not have to stand in the way of success.
is a secret you don't know
Besides the factual Helen Keller biography presented above
there is a secret that no one has known about until now. Helen
Keller used to swear like a sailor when writing words into
Anne Sullivan's hands. Most of her derogatory remarks we made
against small, woodland creatures, especially chipmunks.