Hi, friends. Today marks the 50th year anniversary of Helen Keller’s passing away. Her life was a rare story of triumph over unimaginable obstacles.
Helen Keller was the first deaf and blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree.
At about one and a half years old, Keller contracted an unknown disease (maybe scarlet fever or meningitis) that took her vision and hearing. Without being able to read, write, hear, or speak, she was essentially a prisoner of her mind with no way to communicate or learn.
Keller’s mother read in a non-fiction travel account by Charles Dickens (American Notes) about a deaf-blind person who was successfully educated and wanted to try with her daughter. Through a series of doctor recommendations, the Kellers were finally introduced to Anne Sullivan, a twenty-year-old with vision impairment herself. She wasn’t a teacher–she was a former student at a nearby institute for the blind–but the institute’s director asked for her help.
Sullivan immediately tried spelling words in Keller’s hand; she brought her a doll then outlined d-o-l-l in her palm. Initially, Keller didn’t comprehend what was happening or that every object is assigned a word.
The concept of language finally clicked one month later as Sullivan stuck one of Keller’s hands under a faucet while outlining w-a-t-e-r in the other hand. That moment of epiphany changed the course of their lives.
Sullivan went on to become Keller’s governess and lifelong companion. Keller went on to live a full life–travelling, getting a higher education, writing books.
She was highly involved with political activism, an area where I do vehemently disagree with some of her viewpoints, but her story of overcoming is inspirational nonetheless.
Thanks for reading!