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The Inspiring Life of Helen Keller

Jun 29, 2015

"The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt within the heart." - Helen Keller

Think you're having trouble at school? Imagine not being able to hear your teacher explain a concept, or see him or her demonstrate how to complete a problem. Helen Keller was born on June 27th, 1880 with the ability to see and hear, but before her second birthday had contracted a disease that took those abilities away. 

Early Life

By age 6, Helen was an angry, frustrated child. She was known to be unruly and frequently had uncontrollable temper tantrums. In an effort to find help for her daughter, Helen's mother looked into education options and had Helen see various specialists, including Alexander Graham Bell, who was working ith deaf children at the time. Helen and her father also traveled to the Perkins Institute for the Blind, where the school director suggested that a recently graduated student, Anne Sullivan, work with the troubled Helen. Thus began a relationship that would last for the next half-century. 

Alexander Graham Bell spent some time working with Helen when she was a child.Alexander Graham Bell spent some time working with Helen when she was a child.Courtesy of biography.com


Anne was also blind, and with the benefit of her own experience was uniquely qualified to help Helen learn to communicate. Anne adopted a method when teaching Helen by which she spelled letters onto Helen's hand as Helen touched certain objects. After only six months, Helen had learned nearly 600 words and mastered the Braille system. Anne was impressed with Helen's progress and encouraged Helen's parents to take her to Boston where she could attend the Perkins Institute for the Blind. 

Anne Sullivan teaches Helen the word for "doll"Anne Sullivan teaches Helen the word for "doll"Courtesy of The New England Historic Genealogical Society


Helen quickly became a star student at the school, and gained some fame for her amazing progress. Anne continued to teach her and work with her throughout the rest of Anne's life. At the age of 24, Helen graduated from Radcliffe University, becoming the first ever deaf and blind person to hold a Bachelor of Arts degree. As she got older, Helen began her long-term career as a public speaker, social activist, author, and advocate for persons with disabilities. She founded the foundation Helen Keller International, and in 1920 also helped to found the American Civil Liberties Union. Helen was also a Socialist and was very active in her support of workers' rights. 

Helen was the first deaf and blind person to get a Bachelor of Arts degreeHelen was the first deaf and blind person to get a Bachelor of Arts degreeCourtesy of Blind Wisdom International

Helen struggled a lot in her life. She faced challenges that many people have never had to deal with, and ultimately became an inspirational figure as well as an accomplished, successful career woman. Helen Keller truly changed the North American view of people with disabilities, and was one of the people who paved the way on the road to equal opportunity for and respect of those who have disabilities. 

Have Your Say! 

Have you ever had a teacher that helped you get through a difficult time?