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Helen Keller

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.

Helen Keller
Helen 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 answers.

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.


There 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.


 

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