Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Helen Keller (1880-1968)
Literature is my Utopia. Here I am not disenfranchised. No barrier of the senses shuts me out from the sweet, gracious discourses of my book friends. They talk to me without embarrassment or awkwardness.
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Helen Keller (June 27, 1880 - June 1, 1968) was born in Alabama. When she was 19 months old, Helen was struck with a fever and became both deaf and blind. The lively child changed into a little wild 'animal' who terrorised the people around her. In 1887, her parents, Arthur H. Keller and Kate Adams Keller, finally contacted Alexander Graham Bell, who worked with deaf children. He advised them to contact the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts. They delegated the teacher Anne Sullivan, who was then only 20 years old, to try to open up Helen's mind. It was the beginning of a 49-year period of working together.
Sullivan demanded and got permission from Helen's father to isolate the girl from the rest of the family, in a cabin. Her first task was to instill discipline in the spoiled girl. Helen's big breakthrough in communication came one day when she realized that the motions her teacher was making on her palm symbolized the idea of "water" and nearly exhausted Sullivan demanding the names of all the other familiar objects in her world (including her prized doll).
Anne was able to teach Helen to think intelligibly and to speak, using the Tadoma method: touching the lips of others as they spoke, feeling the vibrations, and spelling of alphabetical characters in the palm of Helen's hand. When Helen was 24 she graduated cum laude from Radcliffe College, where Anne Sullivan had translated every word in her hand. With tremendous willpower Helen went on to become a world famous speaker and author. She made it her own life's mission to fight for the sensorially handicapped in the world. Helen Keller was a member of the socialist party and actively campaigned and wrote in support of the working classes from 1909 to 1921. In 1960 her book Light in my Darkness was published in which she advocated the teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg. She also wrote a lengthy autobiography. Helen Keller died on June 1, 1968. [This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License and uses material adapted in whole or in part from the Wikipedia article on Helen Keller.]
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