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Helen Keller


Imagine that you couldn't see these words or hear them spoken. But you could still talk, write, read, and make friends. In fact, you went to college, wrote nearly a dozen books, traveled all over the world, met 12 U.S. presidents, and lived to be 87. Well, there was such a person, and she was born over a hundred years ago!

Meet Helen Keller, a woman from the small farm town of Tuscumbia, Alabama who taught the world to respect people who are blind and deaf. Her mission came from her own life; when she was 1 1/2, she was extremely ill, and she lost both her vision and hearing. It was like entering a different world, with completely new rules, and she got very frustrated. By the time she was 7, her parents knew they needed help, so they hired a tutor named Anne Sullivan. 

Annie Sullivan

Anne was strict, but she had a lot of energy. In just a few days, she taught Helen how to spell words with her hands (called the manual alphabet, which is part of the sign language that deaf people use.) The trouble was, Helen didn't understand what the words meant—until one morning at the water pump (like an outdoor water fountain) she got a whole new attitude.Anne Sullivan

Anne had Helen hold one hand under the water. Then she spelled "W-A-T-E-R" into Helen's other hand. It was electric! The feeling turned into a word. Immediately, Helen bent down and tapped the ground; Anne spelled "earth." Helen's brain flew; that day, she learned 30 words.

Helen Keller reading a braille bookFrom then on, Helen's mind raced ahead. She learned to speak when she was ten by feeling her teacher's mouth when she talked. Often people found it hard to understand her, but she never gave up trying. Meanwhile, she learned to read French, German, Greek, and Latin in braille! When she was 20, she entered Radcliffe College, the women's branch of Harvard University. Her first book, called The Story of My Life, was translated into 50 languages. (She used two typewriters: one regular, one braille.) She wrote ten more books and a lot more articles! How did she find the time?

Helen also did research, gave speeches, and helped raise money for many organizations, such as the American Foundation for the Blind and the American Foundation for the Overseas Blind, which is now called Helen Keller Worldwide. From 1946 and 1957, she went around the world, speaking about the experiences and rights of people who are blind. She wound up visiting 39 countries on five different continents! Helen also inspired many works of art, including two Oscar-winning movies, and received dozens of awards, such as the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor that an American civilian can receive. She died in her sleep in 1968.

Helen became an exceptional leader, once she saw the potential in her own mind.


If I, deaf, blind, find life rich and interesting, how much more can you gain by the use of your five senses!" 
- Helen Keller, 1928

Helen is standing outside on a sunny day, touching the leaves of a tree. This picture was taken around 1914, when she was in her early thirties. Her hair is in a loose bun at the back of her head, and she is wearing a long, dark dress that has a layered skirt with a high waist. The sleeves of the dress are opaque down to the elbow, then turn into small ruffles made of transparent fabric.

This is the main house on the Keller family's Ivy Green estate. This picture shows a one-story house surrounded by big, round shrubs and tall, leafy trees. It is a sunny day, but the house is in the shade of all the plants. The house has white wood shingles and lots of windows with dark shutters.

This picture of Anne was taken when she was about 21. She is shown in profile, like a face on a coin. Her hair is very curly. She has short bangs and the rest of her hair is twisted up into a long bun at the back of her head. She is wearing a white, delicately embroidered top that has small buttons up the front and a low, round collar.

Helen was a very spiritual woman. She believed that everyone from all races and cultures deserved the same rights. After Polly's death in 1961, Helen lived quietly at Arcan Ridge. She died in her sleep in 1968. 

Fun Facts

 Helen Keller loved hot dogs!
 Helen Keller wrote to eight Presidents of the United States, and received letters from all of them—from Theodore Roosevelt in 1903 to Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965.
 Helen Adams Keller was born on June 27, 1880, in Tuscumbia, a small rural town in Northwest Alabama, USA.
 Helen was an excellent typist. She could use a standard typewriter as well as a braille writer. In fact, she was a better typist than her companions Anne Sullivan Macy and Polly Thomson.
 Helen loved animals, especially dogs. She owned a variety of dogs throughout her life. The first Akita dog in the United States was sent to Helen from Japan in 1938.
 Helen visited 39 countries around the world during her lifetime.
 Helen Keller was the first deaf and blind person to earn a college degree. She graduated from Radcliffe College, with honors, in 1904.
 Helen was friends with many famous people, including Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, the writer Mark Twain, and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
 Helen won an Oscar for the documentary about her life, "Helen Keller in Her Story."


 "We are never really happy until we try to brighten the lives of others." 
- Helen Keller
 "The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen nor even touched, but just felt in the heart." 
- Helen Keller, 1891
 "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." 
- Helen Keller, 1941
 "The chief handicap of the blind is not blindness, but the attitude of seeing people towards them." 
- Helen Keller, 1925
 "I believe humility is a virtue, but I prefer not to use it unless it is absolutely necessary." 
- Helen Keller, 1916
 "What a strange life I lead—a kind of Cinderella-life—half-glitter in crystal shoes, half mice and cinders!" 
- Helen Keller, 1933
 "If I, deaf, blind, find life rich and interesting, how much more can you gain by the use of your five senses!" 
- Helen Keller, 1928
 "The most beautiful world is always entered through imagination." 
- Helen Keller, 1908
 "Faith is a mockery if it does not teach us that we can build a more complete and beautiful world." 
- Helen Keller