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The Student: Helen Keller

Updated on November 21, 2012

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.

Early Friendships

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.

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.

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?

She was a remarkable woman in her own right!

She was a remarkable woman in her own right!

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    • Michey LM 4 years ago

      Absolutely remarcable on her own right

    • anonymous 4 years ago

      sh is some one to look up to.

    • anonymous 4 years ago

      Of course Helen Keller was remarkable in her own right. To be able to learn and grow as she did was amazing. She was fortunate to have been blessed with Anne Sullivan in her life, who was also and amazing and remarkable person in her own right. The patience and devotion she showed to Helen enabled Helen to develop into the remarkable person she was.

    • Kay 5 years ago

      She was absolutely amazing and my eight year old daughter reads everything she can about her. She has been so taken with Helen's life story. Anne Sullivan was incredible as well though.

    • compugraphd 5 years ago


      She was remarkable in her own right, highly intelligent, and very motivated, but I do believe that Annie had her own agenda -- I think Helen might have been happy to have married (I think Annie broke up Helen's engagement) and Helen, being who and what she was, would have seen the positive in the experience even if the marriage had crumbled (as Annie's own marriage to John Macy did).

      Annie, of course, was a remarkable woman in HER own right too -- growing up in an orphanage, losing her brother at so young an age. She was devoted to Helen, but had a tendency, IMHO, to see Helen as an extension of herself and not as her own person.

      That Helen continued to accomplish things after Annie's death (and even after Polly Thompson's death) is testament to her individuality and strength of character.

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      I have to do a project on her shes my role model. Shes an inspiration, NOT A TOOL!

    • Frankie Kangas 5 years ago from California

      I think she was remarkable in her own right as was Anne Sullivan. I think it almost an insult to label Keller a tool or extension of Sullivan. If she wasn't remarkable, no teacher could have taught her. Look at students with the same teacher where one excels and the other doesn't. Both had to be remarkable for Keller to develop as she did.

    • anonymous 5 years ago


    • JoshK47 6 years ago

      Definitely remarkable in her own right, though Anne Sullivan certainly helped her be able to express that.

    • Nancy Tate Hellams 6 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Oh yes, I think Helen Keller was very remarkable

    • Lorelei Cohen 6 years ago from Canada

      Very much. She had much to learn and had learning occurred right at her birth it would have been much easier for her.

    • GetSillyProduct 6 years ago

      She lived in a world without sight or sound, she was definitely remarkable

    • Renaissance Woman 6 years ago from Colorado

      Both women were remarkable. However, Helen Keller's strength and courage were her own. Ms. Sullivan had her own strengths and gifts. Together, the two were able to maximize their special capacities. A winning combination!

    • anonymous 6 years ago

      Even is she was pushed into it and dragged along by her teacher; Helen accomplished this stuff. Can you ever completely separate a teacher/mentor from a student? A coach from an athlete? And so on...

    • glenbrook 6 years ago

      I think they were both remarkable.

    • Mary Norton 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Hele Keller must have had the will to do what she did but a good teacher can often do miracles.

    • anonymous 6 years ago

      helen keller was so awesome! how could she do all of that?

    • LouisaDembul 6 years ago

      Anne Sullivan probably contributed a lot to whom Helen Keller became, but we all are affected by people around us.

    • anonymous 7 years ago

      she's one smart girl

    • Jimmie Lanley 7 years ago from Memphis, TN, USA

      If AS was trying to use Helen Keller, I think her plan backfired. Helen Keller is a household name, not nearly as well known as Anne Sullivan.

    • clouda9 lm 8 years ago

      It was her spirit that shined!

    • Nan 8 years ago from London, UK

      Anne Sullivan was the catalyst, but Helen Keller was remarkable in her own right.

    She was just an extention of Anne Sullivan!

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      • Sandy Mertens 6 years ago from Frozen Tundra

        I have to agree with both here. Helen Keller was a remarkable intelligent woman. But without Anne Sullivan, her life would be treated as subhuman. Sullivan helped Helen communicate to the world.

      • Lisa Auch 6 years ago from Scotland

        I worked with children, and indeed it is a partnership, if you have the dedication and will to break through and find "the Key" then you can achieve remarkable things, a person wanting to help and a willing person looking for help is a remarkable combination.

      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!

      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!

      What do you think of Helen Keller? - Has she touched you, too?

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          Ibidii 2 years ago

          I am very happy with your hubs on Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan! You have some very nice hubs on a lot of books that I have read, also. I was going to do a story on Helen, but you have done it in spades here. I will add this hub to my links!

        • Michey LM profile image

          Michey LM 4 years ago

          Remarkable tribute for a great personality

        • Michey LM profile image

          Michey LM 4 years ago

          Remarkable tribute for a great personality

        • Magda2012 profile image

          Magda2012 4 years ago

          Since my childhood, I found that Helen Keller has been very inspiring. thanks for writing this..

        • KathyMcGraw2 profile image

          Kathy McGraw 5 years ago from California

          I always remembered the story of Helen Keller but it's been awhile, so I enjoyed reading this. If you think about all Helen Keller accomplished in her life, against all odds it puts into real perspective al the people that want to be on disability. Sure some really are disabled...but many are because of their thinking.

        • KReneeC profile image

          KReneeC 5 years ago

          Helen Keller and her patient teacher were truly inspirational people. Knowing about all the struggles that Helen had to go to truly makes you appreciate what you have.

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          Brandi 5 years ago from Maryland

          I greatly admire Helen Keller, an extraordinary woman! This is a wonderful lens in tribute to her. SquidAngel Blessed! :)

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          flycatcherrr 5 years ago

          This is wonderful; and I'm reminded of how instructive (and inspirational) I found that W-A-T-E-R story when I first started trying to figure out how to teach in cases where the learning didn't come easy. *blessed*

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          dwnovacek 5 years ago

          A marvelous lens about a very special lady. Angel Blessed!

        • compugraphd profile image

          compugraphd 5 years ago


          In case the fact that I aced the quiz (without breathing heavily -- and you didn't even ask what college she graduated from, what Annie's husband's name was or what the name of her companion after Annie died) doesn't tell you, I've been a fan of Helen Keller's for most of my life (I don't even ever remember not knowing who she was) --

          When I was 7 years old, I wrote this poem about her (keep in mind, I was 7):

          Helen Keller: Blind and Deaf

          When one-and-a-half years old

          Was sick in bed

          Burning with fever.

          Her mother hoped it would go down

          And it did

          But poor, young Helen

          Was left

          Blind and Deaf.

          (Needless to say, I never believed that poems needed to rime.)

          Great lens, BTW.

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          anonymous 5 years ago

          Nice lens. I live in Helen Keller's home state of Alabama and have been fortunate enough to visit Ivy Green, her home and birthplace in Tuscumbia. Recently, I skimmed through the new Mark Twain autobiography. One of the most interesting parts of the book was where he talked about his friendship with Helen Keller. If you haven't read it, I recommend getting it and least checking out the part about Helen. All the best.

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          thesuccess2 5 years ago

          Angels Blessings for this inspiring lens

        • yourselfempowered profile image

          Odille Rault 5 years ago from Gloucester

          What a fascinating and remarkable lens! I didn't know much about Helen Keller before rading this - brilliant piece! Blessed. :)

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          Frankie Kangas 5 years ago from California

          Helen Keller was truly extraordinary woman. She is an inspiration to me. I can't imagine what I'd do if I was in her position! Thank you for sharing her very moving story. Blessed. Bear hugs, Frankie

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          Renaissance Woman 5 years ago from Colorado

          Just stopping back by to sprinkle some angel dust. :-) *Blessed*

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          JoshK47 6 years ago

          Very informative and well-written - keep up the excellent work!

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          Nancy Tate Hellams 6 years ago from Pendleton, SC

          Very well written and I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about Helen Keller. Thank you.

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          Lorelei Cohen 6 years ago from Canada

          Very informative as always. Your writing is wonderful.

        • dschandar profile image

          dschandar 6 years ago

          This lens make me to read each and every single line is influence. Really, Helen Keller was a great remarkable woman

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          anonymous 6 years ago

          Awesome lens about an awe inspiring person. Thanks and good day.

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          UKGhostwriter 6 years ago

          I remember watch the original movie about Helen Keller, too many years ago and the part where she uses the vibration of the balloon to feel the sound of the speakers voice.

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          garyrh1 6 years ago

          Helen Keller was an amazing woman. I remember the first time I heard about her; it was during elementary school and the teacher wanted us to watch a movie. It was about her.

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          Chazz 6 years ago from New York

          Adding another angel blessing to your lens. 4-1-11

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          TeachingatHome 6 years ago

          This is beautiful.

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          GetSillyProduct 6 years ago

          I only knew what I had learned in elementary school, I definitely learned more on this lens. Terrific biography lens, 2 thumbs up :)

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          Everyday-Miracles 6 years ago

          @GetSillyProduct: Thank you! Make sure to check out the others in the series. Susan B. Anthony is also hopefully coming fairly soon!

        • Everyday-Miracles profile image

          Everyday-Miracles 6 years ago

          @Titia: Thank you! Be sure to check out my lens on Anne Sullivan as well :)

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          Titia Geertman 6 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

          Great lens. I've been touched by Helen's will to learn from the moment I saw a movie about her life. I've been touched too by the determination of Anne Sullivan to succeed in her mission. It doesn't matter who pushed who, both couldn't have done it without the other.

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          Everyday-Miracles 6 years ago

          @Sanam: Thank you!

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          Sanam 6 years ago

          Truly amazing lens.

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          Everyday-Miracles 6 years ago

          @RealityTV LM: Thank you so much!

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          RealityTV LM 6 years ago

          "Lucky Leprechaun Blessings" from a Squid Angel. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

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          Renaissance Woman 6 years ago from Colorado

          Thank you for teaching me so much!

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          tiff0315 6 years ago

          Excellently written! Wonderful lens!

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          jlshernandez 6 years ago

          I saw the movie The Miracle Worker starring Patty Duke as Helen eons ago. That is the reason I remember the first word she said was WAH TAH for water. Yes, indeed, Helen Keller was a role model for someone who was deaf and blind which was compensated by her gift of writing. Thanks for sharing such a great lens.

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          Mary Norton 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

          She has always been an inspiration.

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          Mary Norton 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

          She has always been an inspiration.

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          Everyday-Miracles 6 years ago

          @Light-in-me: Thank you Robin! This lens is getting blessed all over the place lately. I'm really glad that you all are enjoying it so much!

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          Light-in-me 6 years ago

          That video of her learning to speak is fantastic wow!

          This lens is wonderful, thanks for sharing.


          Robin :)

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          Everyday-Miracles 6 years ago

          @KimGiancaterino: Thank you! And thank you for the blessing as well :) I have a lens about Anne Sullivan as well. :)

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          KimGiancaterino 6 years ago

          I love the movie about Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan, "The Miracle Worker." Patty Duke and Anne Bancroft gave such believable performances. Very nice lens ... congratulations on your purple star.

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          Everyday-Miracles 6 years ago

          @nightbear lm: Thank you for the blessings, Susan!

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          nightbear lm 6 years ago

          What an incredible job you have done on this lens. Helen has always been one of my favorite women. Your writing style and sensitivity made it so wonderful and easy to read. I truly enjoyed it. And the video of Helen learning to speak with Anne was an emotional moment for me. This lens is blessed by this squid angel

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          Everyday-Miracles 6 years ago

          @LisaAuch1: Thank you! This lens has been flying up the rank lately. :) Really appreciate it!

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          Lisa Auch 6 years ago from Scotland

          I have worked with children, where others became so frustrated at not making progress, and then I have have had success where they failed, if i had not made a connection and a trust with the child no learning could take place, people who do not understand that concept then come up with a conspiracey theory...which is a shame as what one person does i may not like and another could do a different way but i do like...Anne Sullivan found WHAT WORKED with Helen and developed that, some people resent the fact that Anne could think "outside the box" Which in my opinion more people should do, it would be nice if all children fit into the same box, but they do not, that is why the education system at ppresent is failing children. Blessed

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          anonymous 6 years ago

          If, in the afterlife, God allows us to meet those people in history who made an impact on the world, I would choose to meet Helen Keller first, after my own family. I have admired Miss Keller for most of my life. Her bravery and single minded determination to educate herself always impressed me, and she has always been my hero.

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          Jeanette 7 years ago from Australia

          She certainly was a strong and courageous woman. And no, I didn't know that she learned to speak. You have done a brilliant job with this lens.

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          Everyday-Miracles 7 years ago

          @anonymous: Thank you so much, Tipi. I love that this lens is starting to spread like wildfire. It means two things: the first is that more students are studying her than I thought, and the second is that those who don't know about her most likely soon *will*.

          Thank you for your kind comments.

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          anonymous 7 years ago

          A remarkable woman in-deed. A story that needs to be told again and again. Everyone should know about what she went through and the victories she had. She's always been a reminder to me, that I can...if I will. ~ God bless you and this wonderful lens.

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          Everyday-Miracles 7 years ago

          @WhiteOak50: Thank you so much!

        • WhiteOak50 profile image

          WhiteOak50 7 years ago

          I have always admired the whole concept of Helen Keller, to me she was beyond remarkable. You did a GREAT job putting this lens together! "Blessed by a SquidAngel"

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          kab 7 years ago from Upstate, NY

          I loved the video of Helen speaking. Thanks.

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          anonymous 7 years ago

          Wonderfully written piece on Helen Keller!

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          clouda9 lm 8 years ago

          Truly amazing lens...I learned so much and had no clue of the beginning life of Helen, I thought she was born with her challenges.

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          anonymous 8 years ago

          I read about Helen Keller when I was a child and was amazed at the miracle wrought by Anne Sullivan. SquidAngel Blessings to you.

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          Everyday-Miracles 8 years ago

          [in reply to debnet]

          That video was so tough to find! I had to really refine my search but *so* worth it! Thanks Debbie!

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          Debbie 8 years ago from England

          Whta an amazing woman and I really enjoyed the video of her showing how she learnt to speak,

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          Sandy Mertens 8 years ago from Frozen Tundra

          Very nice tribute to Helen Keller. She was one special woman. 5*

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          anonymous 8 years ago

          Wonderful lens on a remarkable woman!

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          Deb Kingsbury 8 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

          Great job. Growing up, I always wanted to watch Helen Keller films whenever they were on TV. Such an amazing story.

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          Nan 8 years ago from London, UK

          Very well written and a glowing tribute to a remarkable woman. Easily worth 5* and more. Just wish I had the ability to bless you.

        • Everyday-Miracles profile image

          Everyday-Miracles 8 years ago

          [in reply to JLCollins]

          Thank you, Joan!

          I thought about putting together a written compilation of her quotes, but decided that the video inclusion was sufficient to get the point across. This is only the second in what will be a series of 25 articles about amazing women in our history.

          I'm glad you liked it!

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          JLCollins 8 years ago

          Helen Keller said one of my favorite quotes. "I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do." Wonderful article!