“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.” –
“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart” –
“Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there’s a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see.” –
Helen Keller And Anne Sullivan
Hellen Adams Keller was born a healthy child on June 27, 1880, in Tuscumbia, Alabama. Her father, Colonel Arthur Keller, was a descendant of Colonel Alexander Spottswood, who was a colonial governor of Virginia. Her mother, Kate Adams Keller, was related to many prominent New England families. Helen Keller came from a very well known family. Her father was even a captain in the Confederate Army, however, they lost most of their family wealth during the Civil War and was forced to live modestly after the war was over.
Like I stated above, Helen Keller was born healthy. It wasn’t until she was 19 months old that she lost her ability to see and hear. No one knows why, but it is stated that it was caused by “an unknown illness, perhaps rubella or scarlet fever.” (Helen Keller Biography)
Her mother and father took her to see the famous inventor, Dr. Alexander Graham Bell. He advised them to hire an aid/caregiver for the child. On March 3, 1887, at almost seven years of age, Helen Keller’s life was forever changed when she met Anne Mansfield Sullivan.
Anne Sullivan was to become Helen Keller’s teacher. Anne Sullivan was only 21 years old at the time and a graduate of Perkins School for the Blind. Sullivan was only partially blind. Helen and Anne could not have come from more different childhoods. Compared to Helen’s prominent family ties, Anne’s parents were poor Irish immigrants. Anne, sadly, even spent four years as a warden of the state of Massachusetts.
Anne saw something in this angry, unruly child. She believed that she was capable of so much more. Instead of crushing the spirit of the young Helen Keller, she believed patience, obedience, and love were the keys to success. Shortly after Anne’s arrival, she was able to convince Helen’s parents that they needed some time to themselves, as a result, they moved into a nearby cottage for two weeks.
Anne slowly started teaching Helen by signing into her little hand. Then Anne proceeded to help Helen to make connections by letting her feel or touch something and then Anne would spell it out for her in her hand. In 1890, Helen decided she wanted to learn to speak, which she did, but she was never satisfied with her voice because it was hard to understand. Helen and Anne caught the attention of Alexander Graham Bell and Mark Twain. Twain has been quoted in saying, “the two most interesting characters of the 19th century are Napoleon and Helen Keller.”
Alexander Graham Bell and Mark Twain even came to their defense in 1891 when Helen was being accused of plagiarism. For some, it was really hard to believe that Helen’s ideas were her own because they couldn’t believe someone that was deaf and blind could be so talented. Click here for a letter from Mark Twain to Helen Keller that he wrote to her about this very accusation.
Helen graduated from Radcliffe in 1904 with a Bachelor of Arts degree cum laude. She was the first ever deaf/blind person to do so. This was a huge accomplishment for Ann Sullivan, as well, without her help no ones know if Helen would have accomplished all that she did. Anne stayed with Helen until her death in 1936. After Anne’s death, Polly Thomson took over for Anne.
In 1903, her autobiography, The Story of My Life, was published. Followed by The World I Live In, Out of the Dark, My Religion, Midstream- My Later Life, Let Us Have Faith, and Teacher, Anne Sullivan Macy, to name a few.
Helen joined the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) in 1924 and worked for them for over 40 years.
On June 1, 1968, just weeks shy of her 88th birthday, Helen Keller passed on. Her ashes were laid to rest next to Anne Sullivan Macy and Polly Thomson, in St. Joseph’s Chapel of Washington Cathedral.
The eulogy was given by Senator Lister Hill of Alabama. In his eulogy, Senator Hill said, “she will live on, one of the few, the immortal names not born to die. Her spirit will endure as long as man can read and stories can be told of the woman who showed the world there are no boundaries to courage and faith.”
See you next week for another Inspiration Women Wednesday. <3
“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” -Isaiah 40:31