The Student: Helen Keller
Helen Keller: A Woman of Strength and Courage
Helen Keller, the little girl who became deaf and blind at a very young age and grew up to become a prominent author and speaker, is a remarkable woman of strength and courage!
While we may forget her teacher, The Miracle Worker Anne Sullivan, even modern Americans are hard-pressed to forget the beloved Helen Keller. Like her teacher, Helen Keller's courage was of the quiet sort. She didn't take great adventures, but she was a pioneer for the deaf and blind.
Not much is known about so severe a disability before Helen Keller, but we do know that it is because of her and the miraculous Anne Sullivan Macy that the deaf-blind are able to communicate. Ms. Keller was a champion for all those who suffered from a similar disability, proving that it is possible to overcome terrible circumstances and become something better for yourself.
Helen Keller, though interdependent on the woman she called "Teacher" throughout her life, was a remarkable woman and a hero in her own right. We must not overlook the great good that this remarkable woman did, nor forget what it took for her to become what she was.
Helen Keller Throughout Her Life - Images of the champion of civil liberties for disabled persons
This video shows pictures of Helen Keller throughout her lifetime. A remarkable woman, one needn't hear her voice to see who she was through the expressions on her face in each of the images in this montage.
The Early Tragedy of Helen Keller
Helen Keller was born with her senses intact
Many deaf or blind people are born lacking one of their senses and never have a knowledge of what it is to miss either their hearing or their sight. Helen Keller, on the other hand, was born with all five of her senses functioning normally.
Born in Tuscumbia, Alabama in 1880 to Colonel Arthur and Kate Adams Keller, Helen was a normal little girl. Her father was even the editor of the local paper! However, it would be Helen who had the power to bring silence to the house when, in 1882, 19 month-old Helen fell ill.
The illness was described by doctors at the time as "an acute congestion of the stomach and the brain," but is now believed to have been scarlet fever, or possibly meningitis. The illness left Helen, less than two years old, without her hearing or her sight.
Critical to Helen's later development
In the days following her illness, those around Helen found it impossible to communicate with her. In fact, she had but one friend: the six year-old daughter of the family's cook. The little girl's name was Martha Washington.
Together, the young pair developed a rudimentary sign language, and this was Helen's first connection to the world as a deaf-blind person. It is believed that it was this language development that contributed to Helen's ability to learn to communicate (with the help of Anne Sullivan) later on in her life.
This early friendship opened doors for Helen Keller.
Apart from Martha Washington, however, Helen was mostly isolated from other people and she had no other friends or playmates.
What is Helen Keller Reading? - Learn Braille
Braille can only really be learned if you can touched the raised bumps. I've known it at some point in my life but I have lost the skill for it over the years since it isn't something that I use as a sighted person.
- Braille alphabet
Learn the Braille Alphabet.
The Writings of Helen Keller - Her life, in her own words...
Amongst everything else that Helen Keller did and was, she was also the author of twelve books and various articles. Here you can browse through some of her books and perhaps make a purchase. A percentage of your purchase goes to charity.
From Specialist to Specialist
The first attempts to help Helen Keller
Helen was the child of loving parents who simply didn't know how they could help her. In 1886, when Helen was six years old, her mother sought the advice of an ear, nose and throat doctor named Dr. J. Julian Chisolm. Unable to help, he put the family in touch with Alexander Graham Bell, who at the time was working with deaf children.
In turn, Bell directed the family to seek help from the Perkin's Institute for the Blind: the same school at which Miss Anne Sullivan had studied!
It was the head of the Perkins Institute, Michael Anaganos, who asked Anne Sullivan to become Helen's teacher.
Creative Quotations from Helen Keller
Helen Keller has given us some of the most inspirational quotes I have ever read. A truly remarkable woman, she will continue to inspire us long after she has passed on from this world. Please join me in enjoying the things she had to say about how she saw the world!
Alone we can do so little; Together we can do so much!
The Beginnings of a Miracle
Helen Keller meets Anne Sullivan
Helen was seven years old when Anne Sullivan came into her life. Spoiled and prone to tantrums, by this point the child was unsocialized and virtually feral. Her parents had struggled to communicate with and to discipline a deaf-blind child for six years and Anne Sullivan was their last hope.
The bond that would eventually form between Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan was far from immediate. Annie insisted on discipline and Helen resisted her with violent tantrums. Eventually the pair moved to the Keller's garden house, where the real work would begin.
Anne Sullivan forced Helen Keller into a routine that the child had formerly never known. The teacher insisted that they sit at the table to eat their food, that they eat from plates and with forks. She demanded obedience from Helen.
The teacher who would become known as The Miracle Worker began to introduce to Helen Keller the fact that things had names. Using a system of letters formed with her fingers, she began to introduce Helen to the world around her.
Still, Helen resisted.
Learn American Sign Language
- ASLPro.com Home
ASL Pro is a completely free online ASL educational resource website featuring over 11,000 ASL Signs
- American Sign Language
Sign Language (ASL), free lesson plans, dictionary and resources. Information on Deaf culture, baby signing, phrases, and vocab like hello, thank you, I love you, etc. by Dr. Bill Vicars.
The Key that Unlocked Helen's World
Just when both Helen and Anne Sullivan were ready to give up, a breakthrough occurred. Though Annie knew that Helen Keller was a very bright child who truly wanted to learn, she had struggled to reach her young pupil.
Then, one day, the pair stood at the water pump in the garden. Anne Sullivan allowed the water to pour over Helen's hand, and signed "w-a-t-e-r" into her hand again and again. Suddenly, a look of recognition came over Helen's face, and she formed the letters back to her teacher. Yes! She understood!
After that, Helen would rush around, asking Annie what things were. The water had been the key that had unlocked the world to Helen Keller. Finally, she was able to communicate!
Helen Keller Learned to Speak
A deaf-blind young woman learned to use the spoken word!
There came a time when Helen discovered that those around her spoke using their mouths. With her hand on Anne Sullivan's face, Helen realized that others didn't communicate the way she spoke with her Teacher.
Wanting to be like the others, Helen asked Anne Sullivan to teach her to talk with her mouth!
Anne Sullivan used the Tadoma method to teach Helen how to speak. Helen would place her hand on Teacher's face, one finger on Annie's nose, one on her mouth and the thumb at the larynx, and Anne Sullivan would speak. In this way, Helen was able to determine where the sounds were made and to mimic them.
Yes, Helen Keller learned to speak! See the video below for a demonstration by Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan.
How Helen Keller Learned to Speak - And hear her words!
This video demonstrates how Helen Keller learned to speak with her hand on Anne Sullivan's mouth, nose and throat. This is the genuine article: the two women in the video are the real Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller.
Remarkable in her Own Right? - Some claim that Helen Keller was a Tool....
There was some speculation that Anne Sullivan used Helen Keller and that she manipulated her student. Even John Macy, Sullivan's husband, became frustrated with the intimate bond that the two women shared. Please read my lens about Anne Sullivan before dueling!
What do you think? Was Helen Keller remarkable in her own right, or just a tool?
Helen Keller's Formal Education
Life didn't begin and end at Ivy Green!
Anne Sullivan taught Helen how to read Braille, a system of raised bumps which allow blind persons to feel the letters and to read with their fingertips. With this, Helen was able to attend the Perkins Institute for the blind (her teacher's school) and then went on to New York to attend Wright-Humason School for the Deaf and Horace Mann School for the Deaf.
Later, she would return with Anne Sullivan to Massachusetts, where she would attend the Cambridge School for Young Ladies before attending Radcliffe in 1900.
Anne Sullivan was with her every step of the way, and Helen earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1904. She was the first deaf-blind person to earn such a degree.
Activist and Writer
Helen Keller fought for the rights of individuals with disabilities, women, and other groups
Helen Keller was a remarkable woman who actively supported causes about which she felt strongly. She was a radical socialist, an advocate of birth control and women's suffragist and a pacifist. Helen Keller even helped in the foundation of the American Civil Liberties Union (the ACLU).
Beginning at the age of 11, Helen Keller also became a writer. Though there was some question that her first story might have been plagiarized, it was determined that any such act had been unintentional on her part.
When Helen was 22 years old, John Macy (the husband of Anne Sullivan Macy), assisted her with completing her autobiography, The Story of My Life.
Helen published a total of twelve books and several articles over the course of her lifetime.
Learn More about Helen Keller
Many of these pages are my resources in putting together this lens. All are informative and will tell you a lot more about this remarkable woman than I could ever fit onto one simple lens. I hope that you have enjoyed learning about Helen Keller and will continue to do so!
- Helen Keller - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Helen Keller on Wikipedia. There is a lot of information here, much of which goes above and beyond the general "research report" type of information. This article covers more of Helen Keller's later life than what I have done here.
- Helen Keller Kids Museum
American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) Helen Keller Kids Museum features a multimedia timeline for the life of Helen Keller. The site also provides resources for sighted and visually impaired children to research and prepare reports on the life of H
- Helen Keller
Famous Leaders for Young Readers, Helen Keller
- Helen Keller Birthplace
The website for Ivy Green, the place where Helen Keller was born and raised in Tuscumbia, Alabama.
- Helen Keller Quotes - The Quotations Page
For those who prefer to read rather than watch, quotations from Helen Keller.
A Final Word
A remarkable woman...
Though some say that Helen Keller was manipulated by her teacher, Anne Sullivan, I see a remarkable, strong woman who had the courage to become a part of a world that was entirely foreign to her. Helen learned not only to sign, but also to speak with her voice. She attended speaking engagements, graduated from college and did many things that women in her day did not do, regardless of ability or disability.
This was a remarkable woman who touched many lives and hearts. In writing this lens and an accompanying lens about her teacher I couldn't help but cry the tears of the touched spirit.
What an extraordinary woman!
Share your thoughts about Helen Keller. Did you know about her before you found this lens? Did you know that she had learned to speak? What must it have been like for her in a world of silent darkness?
If you have comments on this lens, please feel free to contact me directly. Please use the guestbook for discussion about Helen. Thanks!