- NAME: Helen Keller
- OCCUPATION: Educator, Activist, Journalist
- BIRTH DATE: June 27, 1880
- DEATH DATE: June 01, 1968
- EDUCATION: Horace Mann School for the Deaf, Wright-Humason School for the Deaf, Cambridge School for Young Ladies, Radcliff College
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Tuscumbia, Alabama
- PLACE OF DEATH: Easton, Connecticut
- Full Name: Helen Keller
- Full Name: Helen Adams Keller
Best Known For
American educator Helen Keller overcame the adversity of being blind and deaf to become one of the 20th century's leading humanitarians, as well as co-founder of the ACLU.
Mark Twain - Mini Biography (3:19)
On March 3rd, 1887, Anne Sullivan arrived at the Keller's home in Alabama to work with their deaf and blind daughter, Helen. Through their work together, Helen Keller would go on to become one of the most influential people in history.
Helen Keller lost her sight and hearing when she was only 19 months old. With the help of her teacher, Anne Sullivan, she learned to read and speak.
An excerpt from the inspiring story of Helen Keller's, the famed deaf, blind, and mute woman who fought an incredibly courageous battle to communicate with the outside world and led a life of accomplishment.
Hannibal, Missouri native Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, was one of the premier writers of late 19th century America. He based his fictional works "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" and "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" on his hometown.
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She began by teaching Helen finger spelling, starting with the word "doll," to help Keller understand the gift of a doll she had brought along. Other words would follow. At first, Keller was curious, then defiant, refusing to cooperate with Sullivan's instruction. When Keller did cooperate, Sullivan could tell that she wasn't making the connection between the objects and the letters spelled out in her hand. Sullivan kept working at it,
forcing Helen to go through the regimen.
As Keller's frustration grew, the tantrums increased. Finally, Sullivan demanded that she and Keller be isolated from the rest of the family for a time, so that Keller could concentrate only on Sullivan's instruction. They moved to a cottage on the plantation.
In a dramatic struggle, Sullivan taught Keller the word "water"; she helped her make the connection between the object and the letters by taking Keller out to the water pump, and placing Keller's hand under the spout. While Sullivan moved the lever to flush cool water over Keller's hand, she spelled out the word w-a-t-e-r on Helen's other hand. Keller understood and repeated the word in Sullivan's hand. She then pounded the ground, demanding to know its "letter name." Sullivan followed her, spelling out the word into her hand. Keller moved to other objects with Sullivan in tow. By nightfall, she had learned 30 words.
In 1890, Keller began speech classes at the Horace Mann School for the Deaf in Boston. She would toil for 25 years to learn to speak so that others could understand her. From 1894 to 1896, she attended the Wright-Humason School for the Deaf in New York City. There, she worked on improving her communication skills and studied regular academic subjects.
Around this time, Keller became determined to attend college. In 1896, she attended the Cambridge School for Young Ladies, a preparatory school for women. As her story became known to the general public, Keller began to meet famous and influential people. One of them was the writer Mark Twain, who was very impressed with her. They became friends. Twain introduced her to his friend Henry H. Rogers, a Standard Oil executive. Rogers was so impressed with Keller's talent, drive and determination that he agreed to pay for her to attend Radcliff College. There, she was accompanied by Sullivan, who sat by her side to interpret lectures and texts.
By this time, Keller had mastered several methods of communication, including touch-lip reading, Braille, speech, typing and finger-spelling. With the help of Sullivan and Sullivan's future husband, John Macy, Keller wrote her first book, The Story of My Life. It covered her transformation from childhood to 21-year-old college student. Keller graduated, cum laude, from Radcliffe in 1904, at the age of 24.
In 1905, Sullivan married John Macy, an instructor at Harvard University, a social critic and a prominent socialist. After the marriage, Sullivan continued to be Keller's guide and mentor. When Keller went to live with the Macys, they both initially gave Keller their undivided attention.
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