Who Was Helen Keller? Biography and Facts

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Helen Keller was an amazing person who showed great bravery when facing big challenges. She was born on June 27, 1880, in Tuscumbia, Alabama, and became famous for learning how to communicate even though she was deaf and blind. Her story is very inspiring, and she became well-known for writing books, fighting for people with disabilities, and giving speeches. This article will tell you all about Helen Keller’s life, how she learned to talk and understand the world with the help of her teacher Anne Sullivan, and how she helped change things for the better for many people. Let’s learn more about Helen Keller’s incredible journey and the lasting impact she made.

Who Is Helen Keller? 

Helen Keller was an American author, political activist, and lecturer. She was the first deafblind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. Her life and work are a testament to the power of the human spirit to overcome significant challenges.

What Did Helen Keller Do?

Helen Keller was a remarkable individual known for overcoming the challenges of being deaf and blind to become an influential author, speaker, and advocate for people with disabilities. Her accomplishments include:

  1. Education: Keller became the first deafblind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, graduating from Radcliffe College in 1904.
  1. Writing: She authored numerous books, essays, and articles. Some of her notable works include “The Story of My Life,” which details her early life and education with her teacher Anne Sullivan, and “Light in My Darkness,” in which she discusses her spiritual beliefs.
  1. Advocacy: Keller was a tireless advocate for the rights of people with disabilities. She worked with organizations like the American Foundation for the Blind and traveled extensively to give lectures that raised awareness and funds for the blind and deafblind communities.
  1. Social Activism: Beyond her work for disability rights, Keller was involved in many social causes, including women’s suffrage, pacifism, and labor rights. She was a member of the Socialist Party and campaigned for social and economic reforms.
  1. Inspiration: Perhaps one of her most lasting contributions is the inspiration she has provided to countless individuals facing their own challenges. Keller’s life story of overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles through perseverance, learning, and communication continues to inspire people around the world.

When Was Helen Keller Born?

Helen Keller was born on June 27, 1880.

Where Was Helen Keller Born?

She was born in Tuscumbia, Alabama, in the United States.

Helen Keller Parents

Helen Keller’s parents were Arthur H. Keller and Kate Adams Keller. Arthur Keller was a captain in the Confederate Army and later worked as an editor for a local newspaper. Kate Adams Keller, Helen’s mother, was the daughter of Charles W. Adams, a Confederate general.

Helen Keller Childhood

Helen Keller’s childhood was marked by both significant challenges and remarkable achievements. Born on June 27, 1880, in Tuscumbia, Alabama, her life changed dramatically at 19 months old when an illness, possibly scarlet fever or meningitis, left her both deaf and blind. This sudden loss of sight and hearing plunged young Helen into a world of silence and darkness, making communication with those around her extremely difficult.

Initially, Keller’s inability to see or hear led to frustration and frequent tantrums, as she struggled to express herself and understand her environment. Her early years were filled with challenges as she tried to navigate her new reality without the tools to communicate effectively.

The turning point in Keller’s childhood came in March 1887, when Anne Sullivan, a recent graduate of the Perkins School for the Blind, came to Alabama to be her teacher. Sullivan’s innovative teaching methods, including the manual alphabet and later Braille, opened up the world of language to Keller. One of the most pivotal moments in Keller’s life was when Sullivan spelled “w-a-t-e-r” into her hand while pumping water over it, helping her make the connection between the word and the substance. This breakthrough was the beginning of Keller’s journey into communication and education.

Despite her disabilities, Keller’s intellect and determination shone through. With Sullivan’s guidance, she learned to read and write in Braille, to use the manual alphabet, and to speak. Keller’s childhood, once marked by isolation and frustration, transformed into a period of rapid learning and development, laying the foundation for her future as an author, activist, and speaker.

Where Did Helen Keller Go to School?

Helen Keller went to several schools. She attended the Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston, Massachusetts. Later, she went to the Wright-Humason School for the Deaf in New York City. Finally, she attended Radcliffe College, where she graduated in 1904 with a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan

Anne Sullivan began teaching Helen Keller, a six-year-old who lost her hearing and sight at 19 months old due to an illness, on March 3, 1887. Sullivan used new teaching methods like “touch teaching” to help Keller succeed. Keller later graduated from college and became a famous advocate and speaker. Sullivan, often called “the miracle worker,” supported Keller all her life until she died in 1936.

Sullivan was born in Massachusetts in 1866 and faced her own disability challenges when an infection hurt her eyesight as a kid. She attended the Perkins School for the Blind and learned to communicate with a classmate who was deaf and blind using the manual alphabet. Some surgeries later improved her eyesight a bit.

Sullivan came to the Kellers’ house in 1887. She started to control and teach Keller by forming words in her hand. Keller was confused at first, but when Sullivan spelled “water” as she pumped water on Keller’s hand, Keller understood. She learned to read, write, and talk with Sullivan’s help and even graduated from Radcliffe College with honors in 1904.

Helen Keller wrote books and gave speeches to support blind people, racial and gender equality, and socialism. Her first book, “The Story of My Life,” was published in 1902. Keller and Sullivan also did vaudeville shows between 1920 and 1924 to educate people and raise money. Helen Keller died on June 1, 1968, at 87, after greatly influencing how people see disability.

Helen Keller Relationships

Helen Keller had several significant relationships throughout her life that deeply influenced her both personally and professionally:

  1. Anne Sullivan: Sullivan was Keller’s most pivotal relationship. Starting as her teacher in 1887, Sullivan taught Keller how to communicate using the manual alphabet, leading to a breakthrough in Keller’s ability to connect with the world. Their relationship evolved into a lifelong friendship, with Sullivan acting as Keller’s companion and interpreter until Sullivan’s death in 1936.
  1. John Macy: Macy was Sullivan’s husband and became involved in Keller’s education, especially in her writing. He helped edit Keller’s autobiography, “The Story of My Life.” While their professional relationship was significant, Macy’s marriage to Sullivan also impacted Keller’s daily life, as the three lived together for a time.
  1. Polly Thomson: After Sullivan’s health began to decline, Thomson took on the role of Keller’s secretary and companion. She helped Keller with her correspondence, travel, and public engagements, becoming an essential part of Keller’s life until Thomson’s death in 1960.
  1. Peter Fagan: Fagan was a brief romantic interest in Keller’s life. He was Keller’s secretary for a short period, and they developed a close relationship. They even planned to elope, but the marriage never occurred due to societal pressures and opposition from Keller’s family.
  1. Famous Friends: Keller formed friendships with many notable figures of her time, including Mark Twain, Alexander Graham Bell, and several U.S. Presidents. These relationships helped raise her profile and provided platforms for her advocacy work.

Helen Keller Education

Regarding her education, Helen Keller received her early instruction from Anne Sullivan, who taught her to communicate using sign language and later Braille. Keller’s formal education included attending the Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston, where she learned to read and write in Braille and to use the manual alphabet. She also studied at the Wright-Humason School for the Deaf in New York and the Cambridge School for Young Ladies. Helen Keller then attended Radcliffe College, where she graduated in 1904 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, becoming the first deafblind person to earn such a degree.

How Old Was Helen Keller When She Became Deaf and Blind?

Helen Keller became deaf and blind at 19 months old, due to an illness that might have been scarlet fever or meningitis.

What Did Helen Keller Look Like?

Helen Keller is often described as having had striking features. She had light hair that was sometimes depicted as dark in photos due to the photographic techniques of the time. Her eyes, which were affected by her illness in early childhood, could appear unfocused or clouded in photographs. Despite her blindness, she carried herself with confidence. Helen was of medium height and build, and she was known for her expressive face, which she used effectively to communicate emotions even before she learned formal sign language. As she grew older and became a public figure, she was often seen in photographs with a thoughtful and poised demeanor, reflecting her intellectual and compassionate nature.

Fun Facts About Helen Keller

  1. Meeting Presidents: Helen Keller met 12 U.S. Presidents, from Grover Cleveland to Lyndon B. Johnson, during her lifetime, showcasing her significant influence and recognition.
  1. International Celebrity: Keller was well-known internationally and traveled to over 40 countries advocating for the rights of those with disabilities, making her one of the most recognized figures worldwide.
  1. Love for Animals: Helen had a great affection for animals and owned several pets throughout her life, including dogs, which were her constant companions.
  1. Film Appearance: Keller appeared in a silent film in 1919 titled “Deliverance,” which told the story of her life and helped raise public awareness about the capabilities of people with disabilities.
  1. Vaudeville Performer: For a period, Keller and Anne Sullivan toured the vaudeville circuit, sharing her story and demonstrating her ability to communicate, which was quite unusual and groundbreaking at the time.
  1. Honorary Academy Award: In 1955, a documentary about her life, “The Unconquered,” won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
  2. Language Skills: Besides English, Keller learned to communicate in several languages, including French, German, and Latin, showing her incredible ability to overcome communication barriers.
  1. Meeting Mark Twain: Keller was friends with many notable figures of her time, including Mark Twain, who was a great admirer of hers. He once called her “the eighth wonder of the world.”
  1. College Graduate: Despite her disabilities, Keller graduated cum laude from Radcliffe College in 1904, making her the first deafblind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree.
  1. Advocated for Braille: Keller was a strong advocate for the use of Braille and was instrumental in its adoption, helping to improve literacy and education opportunities for the visually impaired.

Helen Keller’s Legacy

Helen Keller’s life is a powerful reminder that we can overcome even the toughest challenges with determination and the right support. Despite being deaf and blind, she achieved great things as a writer, speaker, and advocate for people with disabilities. Her story teaches us about courage, friendship, and the power of communication. Helen Keller’s legacy continues to inspire people around the world to fight for their rights and believe in their abilities, showing us that anything is possible when we refuse to give up.

Who is Helen Keller and why is she famous?

Helen Keller was an American author and educator who became blind and deaf. Her successful education and training are remarkable achievements in teaching individuals with these disabilities.

How old was Helen when she became blind and deaf?

Helen Keller lost both her sight and hearing at the age of 19 months due to an unknown illness, which may have been rubella or scarlet fever. As she grew from a baby into a young child, she became very difficult to manage.

Was Helen Keller completely deaf?

Helen Keller was born with the ability to see and hear. At 19 months, she suffered from an illness that doctors called “an acute congestion of the stomach and the brain,” possibly scarlet fever or meningitis. This illness resulted in her becoming both deaf and blind.