Helen Keller biography -
Helen Adams Keller was born on June 27, 1880 in Tuscumbia, Alabama to Arthur Henley Keller and Kate Adams Keller. She was born a healthy child, but fell ill at the age of 19 months. She survived the illness but it left her deaf and mute. At a time when most kids would learn to communicate, Helen was robbed of the opportunity. She became a 'wild' and unruly child and her parent was desperate to find a solution.
Through various contacts, they were put in touch with Michael Anagnos of the Perkins Institute for Blind people in Boston. Anagnos recommended a recent graduate, 20 year old Anne Sullivan. Anne herself lost her sight aged five and was sent from the poorhouse (blind or deaf people tended to find their way to institutions) to the Perkins institute for education. Anne received an operation which had partially restored her sight, but still had trouble finding work because of the poor eyesight. Thus, it was an opportunity for her, despite having no experience with teaching, to go and help Helen Keller.
Anne started 'talking' to Helen by writing words with her fingers on Helen hands or arms. But it was not until a later 'miracle' incident that it sunk in what Anne was trying to do. They were at the water pump with water running over Helen's hand and Anne scribbled the word 'w-a-t-e-r' on Helen's hand. And in a moment of clarity, she got that that combination of forms and letters were the representation of the water flowing over her hand.
Helen now had an insatiable need to know the words of things in her world and started learning much faster and more than anyone expected of a deaf and blind person. It was described as a miracle and Helen became famous for it.
Helen and Anne moved to the Perkins Institute in 1888 to further her education. Helen wrote a piece called 'The Frost King' which Anagnos eagerly published, but it was later discovered that it was unintentional plagiarized work and left Anagnos red-faced. This caused some division between Anne and Heller and Anagnos that was never healed.
Helen kept going on to higher education with the Anne as companion. She attended the Wright Humason School for the Deaf in New York from 1894. In 1896 they went to Cambridge school for Young Ladies, and in 1900 enrolled in Radcliffe College - the first deaf blind person to do so (and she was the first deaf blind person to earn a bachelors degree). At Radcliffe, they met John Macy whom Anne later got married to. John Macy helped Anne publish her first book, The Story of My Life, in 1903.
After graduation, the three (John, Anne and Helen) moved to Wrentham, Massachusetts where she wrote The World I Live In. John introduced a new way of looking at the world to her and in 1909 Helen joined the Socialist Party.
Helen and Anne did lecture tours around America and later starred in a movie called Deliverance, but it wasn't a great success. Throughout all her activities, Helen kept up fund raising activity for the American Foundation of the Blind.
In 1921 Helen's mother Kate died, leaving Anne the only constant in her life. Yet Anne had a bout of bronchitis which left her voice weakened, so she couldn't accompany Helen on her tours anymore. Polly Thompson, at one time their secretary, became her new assistant and fellow stage personality. In 1936, Anne passed away and Helen and Polly moved to Westport, Connecticut.
A 1953 documentary entitled 'The Unconquered' was made about Helen's life and in 1955 Helen published her book about Anne called 'Teacher'.
Polly had a stroke in 1957 from which she never fully recovered and died March 21, 1960. The nurse who had taken care of Polly, Winnie Corbally, now took care of Helen.
The play, The Miracle Worker, about Anne's teaching of Helen, was first dramatized in 1957, in 1959 converted to a Broadway play and a full feature film was released in 1962. Both actors that played Helen and Anne won Oscars for their performances.
Throughout her later life Helen supported progressive ideals (some not too popular which led to less media coverage) including her continuous support for reform in the education of blind and deaf people; women's suffrage; pacifism; socialist; and even supported (radical at the time) birth control. In 1961 she suffered a series of strokes and from there spent most of her time at home. She passed away peacefully on June 1, 1968.
The Helen Keller biography tells the amazing tale of a woman whose world was dark and silent, and how one caring teacher, reached into that world and brought a shining star out of it.