Friday, February 22, 2008

Helen Keller

Shayna Gray

Helen Keller was a deaf/blind American author, activist, and lecturer. She was born in Tuscumbia, Alabama on June 21st, 1880. She was not born deaf and blind, but when she was 19 months old she came down with an illness, which is known today as scarlet fever or meningitis, that left her unable to see and hear. Helen lived with her mother and father until 1887 when she met Anne Sullivan, a woman who helped change Helen’s bad behaviors, taught her sign language, how to read braille, and other basic skills. Helen became famous because she was promoted in articles as “a phenomenon”. In 1896, Keller attended Cambridge School for Young Ladies and then enrolled in Radcliffe College in 1900. She was the first deaf/blind person to enter into and graduate from a higher education. Upon graduation, she began to write books and travel the world to lecture and campaign for women’s suffrage, worker’s rights, and socialism. She also spent the remaining years of her life helping other deaf and blind individuals. On June 1, 1968, Helen Keller passed away in Arcan Ridge in Westport, Connecticut.

Helen Keller had many accomplishments throughout her life. She wrote books, lectured, inspired others, and campaigned for important issues. Some of her accomplishments include: learning to write, read and speak as a deaf/blind individual; graduation from Radcliffe College; worked for American Federation for the Blind; published “The Story of My Life in 1903; wrote a groundbreaking article for The Ladies’ Home Journal in 1907; published “The World I Live In” in 1908; published “Out of the Dark” in 1913; donated money to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1917; help found the American Civil Liberties Union in 1918; published “Midstream: My Later Life” in 1929; published “Teacher” in 1955; awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964; and was elected into the Women’s Hall of Fame in 1965.

Helen Keller also contributed to feminism and eradicated oppression and discrimination in many ways. In 1909, she became a socialist and suffragist and traveled the world campaigning for women’s suffrage. In 1912, she publicly spoke out in favor of birth control and following in 1914, she confirmed with Women’s Peace Party for peace in Europe. She also campaigned for worker’s rights and in 1916 supported the Industrial Workers of the World. To fight against discrimination, she fought for freedom of speech with the American Civil Liberties Union, which she helped find. I think she helped open doors for other women because she was a women, despite her handicaps, who fought for what she wanted and knew others deserved. Her courage and determination helped and can continue to help inspire other woman around the world to do the same.

I first heard of Helen Keller in grade school. We read her first book “The Story of My Life” in 5th grade for English. I remember after reading the book, I was inspired by her success as both a woman and a deaf/blind individual, and later did research for other classes in middle school and high school. I believe she has contributed to teaching me that anything is possible if you are willing to work hard despite any obstacles you may run into. I have also realized how lucky I am to have the ability to see and hear. I think many people, especially myself, take little things such as vision and hearing for granted. And to hear a story like Helen Keller’s, makes me appreciate these things even more. I think the story of Helen Keller can help contribute to my success just because its inspiring and encourages me to work harder for what I want regardless of what people tell me and regardless of any obstacles that may cross my path.

Resources for further study:
“The Story of My Life” by Helen Keller
“Helen and Teacher: The Story of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan Macy” by Joseph Lash
“Helen Keller, Prodigy” by Edward Wagenknecht
“Notable Women in American History” by Lynda Adamson
Deliverance (1919)
The Miracle Worker (1962)

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