The Life and Lessons of Helen Keller

Helen Keller is one of the most memorable women in history. Despite being blind as well as deaf, she learned to communicate and lived a life devoted to helping others. Her faith, determination, and spirit helped her to accomplish far more than many people expected. In fact, she won the admiration of famous figures from all over the world. The following offers a glimpse into the inspirational life of Helen Keller.

In June of 1880, Helen Keller was born in the city of Tuscumbia, Alabama. Her parents Kate and Colonel Arthur Keller welcomed their perfectly healthy infant daughter into Ivy Green, their home. When Helen was nineteen months old, she developed an illness that resulted in both blindness and deafness. It's thought that the sickness was either meningitis or scarlet fever. Naturally, Helen's parents felt concern for her future. As Helen grew into a young girl, she became increasingly frustrated with her inability to communicate. She learned to recognize her family members by touching their facial features, their clothing, or by detecting a scent of perfume. Colonel Keller and his wife knew they had to try to help their daughter lead as normal a life as possible. They consulted with Alexander Graham Bell, who worked with the deaf, and he suggested they hire Anne Sullivan as Helen's teacher. This decision would change Helen's life forever.

In 1887, Anne Sullivan arrived at Ivy Green to meet Helen and her family. Anne Sullivan was a determined, young teacher who had lived with blindness herself until undergoing successful surgery. Anne soon realized the tremendous challenge she faced in teaching Helen. Helen had received little discipline in her young life due to her physical challenges. Anne would be teaching her student proper behavior in everyday situations along with academic lessons. After establishing what would become a lifelong relationship, Anne began to teach Helen the alphabet by finger spelling the sign language letters into the palm of Helen's hand. Soon, Helen recognized the letter combinations that Anne finger spelled to her. The most challenging lesson was to help Helen make the connection between a word and a concept. The world-changing breakthrough happened when Anne pumped well water into one of Helen's hands while finger spelling the word water onto her other one. At that moment, Helen understood that a word represented a concept or a thing. From that point on, Helen had an unrelenting desire to learn. Anne continued to work with her eager student on finger spelling. Helen soon learned how to read Braille, write, and even started trying to speak.

Helen Keller had aspirations of going to college. She was a person who didn't allow her physical challenges to deter her dreams. Therefore, in 1900, accompanied by Anne, Helen Keller began taking classes at Radcliffe College. This was notable for a few reasons. For one, Helen was taking classes alongside students who didn't share her challenges. Consequently, she had to devote more time and attention to her studies than the average student did. Also, at that time in history, it was still an uncommon occurrence for a woman to attend college. In 1904, Helen Keller was awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree from Radcliffe College in 1904. She graduated with honors.

After leaving Radcliffe, Helen Keller spent the rest of her life working on behalf of blind and/or deaf people all over the world. With Anne at her side, she went on speaking tours and wrote articles that educated people on the significant role these individuals have in our society. Her far-reaching work won her high honors such as the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The long line of famous people who admired Helen began in her childhood with author Mark Twain. Alexander Graham Bell, William James, and Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy are just a few of the others who had the pleasure of meeting with Helen. Though Helen remained single and had no children, her work with the American Foundation for the Blind allowed her to affect the lives of countless adults and children. Among her other written works, The Story of My Life, serves as an inspirational book for individuals both blind and sighted.

Helen Keller indeed dedicated her life to helping others. She was a writer, speaker, and advocate with a spirit of determination known throughout the world. Her incredible life of eighty-seven years will be celebrated for centuries to come.

For further information on Helen Keller, please visit: