Born in 1880, Helen Keller would become one of the most well-known people of the 20th Century. When she was very young, Keller got sick. Her doctor called it “brain fever.” Today, experts believe she had scarlet fever or meningitis. Whatever its name, the sickness caused a high fever. Keller felt better after several days. However, the illness left her blind and deaf.
Without the ability to see or hear, many things became more difficult for young Helen. She started finding new ways to communicate, like creating her own form of sign language with a friend. However, she hadn’t yet learned to read or write. Keller’s parents found a teacher named Anne Sullivan to help.
As a child, Helen Keller loved dolls. Knowing this, Sullivan started by teaching Keller the word for her favorite toy. She used her finger to write “doll” on Keller’s hand until she understood. After learning “doll,” Keller soon learned “water.” Through constant work, Sullivan taught Keller 300 words in their first few months together.
Understanding new words can be difficult for anyone. Without the ability to see or hear, Helen Keller worked very hard to learn. Eventually, Anne Sullivan taught her to read and write. Keller later went to college. She became the first person with deaf-blindness to graduate from college. Keller earned a Bachelor of Arts from Radcliffe College in 1904.
Keller later fought for women’s suffrage. She also stood up for the rights of people with disabilities. She traveled to 35 countries working for the American Federation for the Blind. She even helped start the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in 1920, which still fights for equal rights today.
Keller’s first book, The Story of My Life, inspired a movie and musical called The Miracle Worker. It told the story of her early life with Anne Sullivan. Keller continued writing throughout her life and published many essays and stories. She was good friends with author Mark Twain, who called Anne Sullivan the “miracle worker” because of her work with Keller.
During her life, Helen Keller traveled the world, met six U.S. Presidents, and fought for equality for all people. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She was even a member of the Women’s Hall of Fame. Keller did all of this without the ability to see or hear. Every person has a special ability to share with the world. What great things might you accomplish one day?