Helen Keller was born on June 27, 1880 in
Anne arrived at the Kellers home in 1887and began teaching Helen to finger-spell. Helen could repeat Anne’s actions, but she was unable to comprehend their meanings. The two moved to a cottage on the land of the main house. After a month of instruction, Helen’s “miracle” occurred. Anne took her to a water pump and, while running water over Helen’s hand, simultaneously spelled “water” on Helen’s free hand. During this experiment, Helen made her first connection between the words and their corresponding objects. Shortly thereafter, Anne taught Helen to read and write (with regular and Braille typewriters). Helen learned to read English, French, German, Greek, and Latin in Braille.
In 1896, Helen attended
Anne Sullivan married John Macy, who first introduced Helen to socialism. In 1909, she became a member of the Socialist Party of Massachusetts. In 1913, Helen’s series of essays on socialism, “Out of the Dark” was published.
Helen and Anne began lecture tours, speaking of Helen’s experiences, with Anne interpreting her speeches. After touring with a vaudeville show, which demonstrated Helen’s first understanding of the word “water,” they were given the chance to make a film in
Anne died on October 20, 1936, and Polly Thomson became Helen’s interpreter. In 1961, Helen suffered the first of a series of strokes. In 1964, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, by President Lyndon Johnson. In 1965, she was elected to the Women’s Hall of Fame at the
She spent her remaining years at her home in
Helen Keller contributed to feminism in many ways. Aside from being an advocate for people with disabilities, she was an activist for sexual and racial equality. She was also a suffragist and a birth control supporter. She made many things possible for not only women, but all people with disabilities as well, simply through her courage and refusal to give up.
I don’t know anyone who hasn’t heard of Helen Keller. Her story is taught in probably every elementary school in the country. She is known for, and represents, perseverance, courage, and equality.