Often, one aims too low and celebrates the achievement of the goal set. To be able to muster courage to work around your blind spots and progress is worthy of acknowledgement and appreciation, but to add to that achievement the distinction of being able to light the candles of hope of millions across the world is an extra-ordinary feat that deserves nothing less than a standing ovation.
A decent-sized gallery in the archives of an international foundation is filled with the work and the awards honors recognizing her work. She is the Mother Teresa of the deaf and the blind all around of the world and is touted to be among the epitomes of courage and faith. The story of her life, even after decades of her departure from the mortal world, seldom fails to evoke awe and instill motivation in zillions. This is Helen Keller, the legendary woman who overcame her own disabilities and demonstrated to the world that boundaries of capacity are where you draw them for yourselves.
The skewed views of societies set certain standards for different sections of populations, and the unprivileged are trained to think that mere survival is the best they can hope for. Those with physical and mental handicaps are exposed to excess pity and are deemed incapable of standing a chance in the competitive world. Such views result in the differently abled feeling anomic. In reality, those with hiccups like blindness, deafness, dumbness, or deprived of the full use of their limbs possess a mind just as intelligent as anyone else, and are as capable of scaling heights as anyone else.
Helen Keller Life Story
Helen Keller was born on 27 June 1880 to Arthur H Keller and Kate Adams, members of the upper rung of their society. Helen was born a healthy child, and it was as a 19-month-old that she contracted what was then diagnosed as brain fever (now believed to be scarlet fever) and lost her visual and auditory senses. The toddler had become blind and deaf before she was old enough to speak or to be fully conscious of the world in which she lives, and she was a highly disoriented child. Never the ones to give up on their little girl, the Kellers paid visits to every avenue that might provide help and finally secured the contact details of the one who would give their daughter a new lease on life.
Helen was 7 when Anne Sullivan Macy stepped into her life. Anne herself was born blind and had secured functional vision through multiple operations, allowing her to empathize with Helen. Anne began coaching her life-long student with the idea that every object in the world could be identified by a specific word by spelling d-o-l-l into Helen’s hand after handing her one.
Anne is irrefutably the woman who deserves to be credited for the intellectual awakening of Helen, besides Helen herself for being a quick learn with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Helen had been taught to spell out a plethora of words, but she did not know what they meant. Anne held her pupil’s palm under a gush of cold, fresh water and spelt w-a-t-e-r on her other palm, repeating the action till Helen understood. The child then touched various things and had her teacher tell her the words for them, and she had learnt 30 words on her first day. Helen also learnt to speak, demanding to be taught to when she learnt that a deaf-blind girl in Norway had learnt to do so.
With a mind like a sponge, Helen went on to study in the Cambridge School For Young Ladies, and then on to Radcliffe College where she clinched her Bachelor of Arts degree. Her education did not stop with her B. A. certificate, she kept herself abreast of worldly developments and wrote several articles that were published in magazines and newspapers, with blindness, deafness, socialism, social issues and women’s rights being her favorite subjects.
In a span of 12 years, Helen visited 35 countries scattered over 5 continents, speaking at various platforms about the issues she championed for, interacted with differently abled people and served to inspire them by her own example that nothing was truly out of their reach. Helen was 75 when she embarked on her last tour – a 40,000-mile tour through Asia, over a span of 5 months. Helen worked to help in the establishment of the American Foundation for the Blind, and was a member of the first board of Directors of the Helen Keller International (then Christened Permanent Blind War Relief Fund).
Helen Keller was awarded numerous honorary doctorates, humanitarian awards, and various forms of recognition and appreciation. A list of them would run several pages long. Keller worked not to clinch international fame, but to help those who were not as fortunate to be blessed with parents as supportive as hers, or a teacher as capable as Anne Sullivan.
Helen Keller is a true hero who not only incessantly worked to overcome her own disabilities to proceed with her life, but also inspired faith in millions by being a live example that validated all the motivations talks addressed to them, and instilling in millions the will to toil for their goals. After all, if a deaf and blind girl could develop to be a force of nature whose intellect could not easily be matched, and grow up to be a woman who was at par with the any other woman of the world, you can achieve your goal, too.
A reservoir of faith, both in herself and in God, Helen Keller seldom looked back and never allowed her difficulties stand in the way of self actualization. Anne Sullivan sure was a genius who could mould the young girl, but Helen would have been just another blind-deaf girl in Alabama’s records if she did not possess the courage to shatter boundaries to achieve what was widely ruled to be impossible for her. Were it not for her will power and unfaltering spirit, Helen Keller would be inconsequential.
Photo Credit: Jared Enos
Who is Helen Keller? - Short Biography
Helen Keller was an American author, political activist, and lecturer. She was born on June 27, 1880, in Tuscumbia, Alabama. Keller was left blind and deaf after a severe illness when she was 19 months old.
Despite her disabilities, Keller was determined to learn and communicate with the world around her. With the help of her teacher, Anne Sullivan, Keller learned to communicate using sign language and Braille. She went on to graduate from Radcliffe College in 1904, becoming the first deaf-blind person to earn a college degree.
Throughout her life, Keller was an advocate for people with disabilities and worked to improve the education and treatment of the blind and deaf. She also advocated for women's rights and was a member of the Socialist Party of America.
Keller wrote several books, including "The Story of My Life" (1903), which detailed her early life and struggles, and "The World I Live In" (1908), which described her experiences and perceptions of the world.
Keller became an international figure and was honored with numerous awards and accolades throughout her life. She died on June 1, 1968, in Westport, Connecticut. Her legacy lives on through the work of the Helen Keller International organization, which is dedicated to improving the lives of those with visual impairments, and the American Foundation for the Blind, which was co-founded by Helen Keller.
Helen Keller Fast Facts
* Helen Keller was born on June 27, 1880, in Tuscumbia, Alabama.
* She was left blind and deaf after a severe illness when she was 19 months old.
* With the help of her teacher, Anne Sullivan, Keller learned to communicate using sign language and Braille.
* She went on to graduate from Radcliffe College in 1904, becoming the first deaf-blind person to earn a college degree.
* Throughout her life, Keller was an advocate for people with disabilities and worked to improve the education and treatment of the blind and deaf.
* She was also a member of the Socialist Party of America and advocated for women's rights.
* Keller wrote several books, including "The Story of My Life" (1903) and "The World I Live In" (1908)
* Keller became an international figure and was honored with numerous awards and accolades throughout her life, such as Presidential Medal of Freedom, Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
* She died on June 1, 1968, in Westport, Connecticut.
* The Helen Keller International organization and the American Foundation for the Blind were co-founded by Helen Keller, which continues to improve the lives of those with visual impairments.
* Keller was one of the first deaf-blind persons to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree
* Her teacher Anne Sullivan was blind herself and Keller referred to her as "the Miracle worker"
Helen Keller Life Highlights
Early Life and Family Background
Helen Keller was born on June 27, 1880, in Tuscumbia, Alabama, to Arthur Henley Keller and Catherine Everett (Adams) Keller. Her family lived on a homestead called Ivy Green, which had been built by her paternal grandfather. She had four siblings, including two full siblings and two half-brothers from her father's previous marriage. Her father, a former Confederate Army captain, worked as an editor for the Tuscumbia North Alabamian, while her mother was the daughter of a Confederate general.
Challenges and Early Communication
At 19 months old, Keller fell ill, leaving her both deaf and blind. She communicated through rudimentary signs with Martha Washington, who was slightly older and the daughter of the family cook. By age seven, Keller had developed over 60 home signs to communicate with her family and could recognize people by their footsteps' vibrations.
Turning Point and Education
In 1886, inspired by Laura Bridgman's success, Keller's mother sought medical advice, leading them to Alexander Graham Bell and eventually Anne Sullivan. Sullivan became Keller's instructor and lifelong companion. On March 5, 1887, Sullivan began teaching Keller to communicate through hand-spelled words, marking a breakthrough when Keller grasped the concept of language, symbolized by the word "water." This newfound ability transformed Keller's understanding of the world.
Formal Education and Achievements
Keller attended various educational institutions for the blind, including the Perkins Institute and the Wright-Humason School for the Deaf. In 1900, she gained admission to Radcliffe College of Harvard University, with financial support from Henry Huttleston Rogers. In 1904, Keller graduated Phi Beta Kappa, becoming the first deaf-blind individual to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. Throughout her life, she honed her communication skills through methods like Tadoma for speech perception, braille, and fingerspelling.
Companions and Advocacy:
Anne Sullivan remained Keller's companion long after her role as a teacher, marrying John Macy in 1905. Polly Thomson, a young woman from Scotland, joined Keller's household as a housekeeper and eventually became a constant companion. Keller's advocacy efforts led her to Forest Hills, Queens, where she worked for the American Foundation for the Blind. She experienced a secret love affair and briefly engaged to a man named Peter Fagan. After Sullivan's death in 1936, Keller and Thomson traveled widely to raise funds for the blind. Thomson passed away in 1960, with Winnie Corbally becoming Keller's companion until the end of her life.
Early Activism and Influences:
In 1916, Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan visited Menomonie, Wisconsin, delivering an inspiring lecture on "Happiness." Keller's remarkable story of triumph over blindness, deafness, and dumbness left a lasting impact on the audience. This event marked the beginning of Keller's journey as a renowned speaker and author, advocating for people with disabilities and addressing various causes.
Social and Political Advocacy:
Over the years, Keller's advocacy expanded to encompass multiple social and political issues. She co-founded the Helen Keller International organization in 1915, dedicated to research in vision, health, and nutrition. Her philanthropic efforts extended to the NAACP, highlighting the mistreatment of "colored people" in the South. Keller's involvement in the suffragist movement, pacifism, socialism, and birth control showcased her diverse interests and commitment to social change.
Keller's influence continued to grow as she traveled extensively, delivering motivational speeches in over 25 countries and promoting the conditions of Deaf individuals. She was instrumental in the founding of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in 1920, emphasizing her dedication to civil rights and justice. Keller's interactions with prominent figures like Alexander Graham Bell, Charlie Chaplin, and Mark Twain demonstrated her broad influence.
Champion for Equal Opportunities:
Keller's advocacy extended to socioeconomic issues, as she aimed to provide underprivileged children with the same opportunities she had enjoyed. Recognizing her own advantages, she worked tirelessly to uplift those born into poverty. Keller's affiliation with the Socialist Party and her alignment with the working class reflected her passion for women's suffrage, anti-war activism, and opposition to industrial oppression.
Educational and Writing Contributions:
Keller's impact went beyond her speeches and activism. She authored 12 published books and numerous articles, showcasing her literary talents. Notably, her autobiography "The Story of My Life," written in collaboration with Anne Sullivan and John Macy, provided insights into her upbringing and achievements. Her writings ranged from essays on socialism in "Out of the Dark" (1913) to spiritual exploration in "My Religion" (1927).
Legacy and Recognition:
Keller's dedication to social causes earned her widespread recognition and honors. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. Keller's commitment to the American Foundation for the Blind in her later years demonstrated her ongoing efforts to improve the lives of visually impaired individuals. She passed away in 1968, leaving behind a legacy of advocacy, empowerment, and philanthropy that continues to inspire generations.
Helen Keller's journey from overcoming personal adversity to becoming a global advocate for various social and political causes is a testament to her indomitable spirit. Through her speeches, writings, and activism, Keller championed equal opportunities, civil rights, and humanitarian values, leaving an enduring impact on society and paving the way for positive change. Helen Keller's life was characterized by overcoming the challenges posed by her deaf-blindness, the pivotal role of Anne Sullivan in her education, and her determination to communicate, advocate, and inspire others with disabilities.
Helen Keller Best Quotes
"The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart." (Meaning)
"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." (Meaning)
"What we have once enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us." (Meaning)
"The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision." (Meaning)
"Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing." (Meaning)
"We could never learn to be brave and patient, if there were only joy in the world." (Meaning)
"I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble." (Meaning)
"Life is either a great adventure or nothing." (Meaning)
"So long as the memory of certain beloved friends lives in my heart, I shall say that life is good." (Meaning)
"Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold." (Meaning)
"It is hard to interest those who have everything in those who have nothing." (Meaning)
"It's wonderful to climb the liquid mountains of the sky. Behind me and before me is God and I have no fears."
"No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit." (Meaning)
"Once I knew only darkness and stillness... my life was without past or future... but a little word from the fingers of another fell into my hand that clutched at emptiness, and my heart leaped to the rapture of living."
"We can do anything we want to if we stick to it long enough." (Meaning)
"Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow." (Meaning)
"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved." (Meaning)
"Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it." (Meaning)
"Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world straight in the eye." (Meaning)
"Love is like a beautiful flower which I may not touch, but whose fragrance makes the garden a place of delight just the same." (Meaning)
"While they were saying among themselves it cannot be done, it was done."
"One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar." (Meaning)
"When we do the best that we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another." (Meaning)
"The marvelous richness of human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome. The hilltop hour would not be half so wonderful if there were no dark valleys to traverse."
"Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other's welfare, social justice can never be attained." (Meaning)
"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all."
"Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all - the apathy of human beings." (Meaning)
"The highest result of education is tolerance." (Meaning)
"Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence." (Meaning)
"Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light." (Meaning)
"True happiness... is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose." (Meaning)
"What I am looking for is not out there, it is in me." (Meaning)
"Self-pity is our worst enemy and if we yield to it, we can never do anything wise in this world." (Meaning)
"Death is no more than passing from one room into another." (Meaning)
"Knowledge is love and light and vision." (Meaning)
"The most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight, but has no vision." (Meaning)
"Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light." (Meaning)
"No one has a right to consume happiness without producing it." (Meaning)
"College isn't the place to go for ideas." (Meaning)
"A lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug." (Meaning)
"All the world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming." (Meaning)
"Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived." (Meaning)
"The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of tiny pushes of each honest worker." (Meaning)
"The hilltop hour would not be half so wonderful if there were no dark valleys to traverse." (Meaning)
"There is no king who has not had a slave among his ancestors, and no slave who has not had a king among his." (Meaning)
"Life is an exciting business, and most exciting when it is lived for others." (Meaning)
"The heresy of one age becomes the orthodoxy of the next." (Meaning)
* The editor of this short biography made every effort to maintain information accuracy, including any quotes, facts, or key life events. If you're looking to expand your personal development, I recommend exploring other people's life stories and gaining inspiration from my collection of inspiring quotes. Exposing yourself to different perspectives can broaden your worldview and help you with your personal growth.
Tal Gur is an author, founder, and impact-driven entrepreneur at heart. After trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, he spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His journey and most recent book, The Art of Fully Living, has led him to found Elevate Society.