(June 27,1880- June 1,1968)
To quote the documentary “Helen Keller – The World I See” from biography.com “Above all, hers is a story not of physical disability, but of a great adventure of the human mind.”
On 27th June 1880, the first born daughter of Katherine Adams Keller, southern socialite, and Captain Arthur H. Keller, US Civil War Confederate Army Captain, Helen Adams Keller, was born a healthy and normal with her senses intact. Helen astounded her parents when she began to speak at the very young age of six months. She continued to amaze as she began walking at the age of one. This excitement was short lived, however as Helen became ill at the age of eighteen months. When Helen recovered from her ‘brain FEVER ‘Kate recognized that Helen was not hearing her when she spoke loudly, or coming when the dinner bell would ring. She also was not aware when Kate would pass her hand in front of Helen’s face. The family doctor determined that she had suffered a severe case of “brain fever and acute congestion of the stomach and brain” producing a high body temperature, leaving her without vision or the ability to hear. Her speech was also disrupted. it has been said that the mysterious illness was most likely a severe case of meningitis.
Relatives believed that Helen should have been institutionalized by the time she was seven (7) years of age. Kate, on the other hand, distraught over her eldest daughters’ condition went in search of a solution. In 1887, when Helen was seven (7) years of age, Anne Sullivan moved into the family’s’ home in Tuscumbia, where she began her work as Helen’s’ teacher and immediately began to connect with and teach Helen. Initially, however, Helen was disobedient and expressed a great deal of frustration. Anne had brought a doll along with her as a gift to Helen and this kept Helen’s’ attention, right away. As a result, Anne spelled out the word “doll” in sign language in Helen’s’ hand. Young Helen became curious and soon understood, several more words followed, Helen, however, grew rebellious and defiant, refusing to participate and throwing tantrums when Anne would spell the words out in her hand. in a remarkable turn of events, Anne taught Helen the word ‘water’. That night Helen had a 30 word vocabulary. After seven (7) years of darkness and solitude, Helen was beginning to communicate with the world around her.
Helen went on to become lecturer and from her own experiences she became an activist for others living with disabilities. She became greatly involved in politics and an advocate for improvement of the welfare and treatment of the blind. By 1915, Helen co-founded Helen Keller International to advocate malnutrition and blindness, causes and concerns. She also co-founded the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) after her graduation from college Helen became a member of the socialist party, often writing on the topic. The press, who had once been very supportive of her accomplishments, turned on her. The Boston Eagle wrote of her, “mistakes sprung out of the manifest limitations of her development.” This, to the dismay of many, did not discourage Helen, as she went on to be appointed as the counselor for international relations for the American Foundation of Overseas Blind in 1946. and in 1955, at the age of 75, Helen went on a five month journey across Asia and After having suffered several strokes in 1961, Helen died peacefully in her sleep in June 1968.
All of this from a young girl who’s relatives said she should have been institutionalized at the age of seven (7)…
“All the world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming.”