Remembering Helen Keller

HELEN KELLER TRIBUTE  27 June 1880 – 1 June 1968

by Christine Nelson

Helen Keller lived a normal life until she experienced an illness at the age of 18 months that left her deaf and blind.  Early childhood included days of frustration, manifested by outbursts of screaming, kicking and scratching.  ( 6 )

Anne Sullivan began teaching Helen Keller at the age of six.   Miss Sullivan taught with patience and guidance.  A lifelong friendship developed with Helen Keller.   Of her savage pupil, Miss Sullivan wrote:

“She has a fine head, and it is set on her shoulders just right.  Her face is hard to describe. It is intelligent, but it lacks mobility, or soul, or something. Her mouth is large and finely shaped.  You can see at a glance that she is blind.  One eye is larger than the other and protrudes noticeably.  She rarely smiles.  “It was days before Miss Sullivan, whom Miss Keller throughout her life called “Teacher,” could calm the rages and fears of the child and begin to spell words into her hand.  The problem was of associating words and objects or actions. What was a doll, what was water?  Miss Sullivan’s solution was a stroke of genius.  ( 4 )

Recounting it, Miss Keller wrote:

“We walked down the path to the well-house, attracted by the fragrance of the honey-suckle with which it was covered. Someone was drawing water and my teacher placed my hand under the spout.

“As the cool stream gushed over one hand, she spelled into the other the word water, first slowly, then rapidly.  I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motions of her fingers.  Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten — a thrill of returning thought: and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me.

“I knew then that ‘w-a-t-e-r’ meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand.  That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free.  There were barriers still, it is true, but barriers that in time could be swept away.”   ( 4 )

During her lifetime, Keller wrote a total of 12 published books and several articles.  Anne Sullivan, helped her make tremendous progress with her ability to communicate, and Keller went on to college, graduating Cum Laude, from Radcliffe College in 1904.  She received many honors in recognition of her accomplishments, including the Theodore Roosevelt Distinguished Service Medal in 1936, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964, and election to the Women’s Hall of Fame in 1965.  ( 3 )

Helen Keller worked for the American Foundation for the Blind for more than 40 years, changing the world’s perception of what it means to be blind and deaf.  Deafblindness is the condition of little or no useful hearing and little or no useful sight.   There are different degrees of vision loss and auditory loss within each individual, thus making the deafblind community unique with many types of deafblindness involved.   Because of this diversity, each deafblind individual’s needs regarding lifestyle, communication, education, and work need to be addressed based on their degree of dual-modality deprivation in order to improve their ability to live independently.  (  1 )

Until her passing, Keller worked unceasingly to improve the lives of people with disabilities.  ( 2 )

“I believe that all through these dark and silent years, God has been using my life for a purpose I do not know, but one day I shall understand and then I will be satisfied.”   ( 6 )

Helen Keller died 1 June 1968 at the age of 87.

“I seldom think about my limitations, and they never make me sad. Perhaps there is just a touch of yearning at times, but it is vague, like a breeze among flowers. The wind passes, and the flowers are content.”

(Helen Keller)

  1. American Association of the DeafBlind (2020)
    1. org
    2. 248 RAINBOW DRIVE #14864 Livingston, TX  77399-2048
  2. American Foundation for the Blind (2020)
    1. org
    2. 1401 South Clark Street Suite 730  Arlington, VA 22202  *  212-502-7600
  3. com.pdf
    2. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Flipboard
  4. Gibson, William (1957).  The Miracle Worker  New York City NY.
  5. National Association of the Deaf
    1. org
    2. 8630 Fenton Street, Suite 820 Silver Spring, MD 20910
  6. New York Times
    1. “Helen Keller, 87, Dies”.  1968 June 2 Alden Whitman
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