After watching the “Miracle Worker ” production on campus yesterday ( which I thoroughly recommend) I had a look on the ever useful wikipedia to find about more about her amazing story.
“Helen Keller was not born blind and deaf; it was not until nineteen months of age that she came down with an illness described by doctors as “an acute congestion of the stomach and the brain”, which could have possibly been scarlet fever or meningitis. In 1886, her mother was inspired by an account in Charles Dickens’ American Notesof the successful education of another deafblind child, Laura Bridgman, and traveled to a specialist doctor in Baltimore for advice. He put her in touch with Alexander Graham Bell, who was working with deaf children at the time. Bell advised the couple to contact the Perkins Institute for the Blind, the school where Bridgman had been educated, which was then located in South Boston. The school delegated teacher and former student Anne Sullivan, herself visually impaired and then only 20 years old, to become Keller’s instructor. It was the beginning of a 49-year-long relationship, eventually evolving into governess and companion.
Sullivan got permission from Keller’s father to isolate the girl from the rest of the family in a little house in their garden. Her first task was to instill discipline in the spoiled girl. Keller’s big breakthrough in communication came one day when she realized that the motions her teacher was making on her palm, while running cool water over her hand, symbolized the idea of “water”; she then nearly exhausted Sullivan demanding the names of all the other familiar objects in her world (including her prized doll). In 1890, ten-year-old Helen Keller was introduced to the story of Ragnhild Kåta, a deafblind Norwegiangirl who had learned to speak. Kåta’s success inspired Keller to want to learn to speak as well. Sullivan taught her charge to speak using the Tadoma method of touching the lips and throat of others as they speak, combined with fingerspelling letters on the palm of the child’s hand. Later Keller learned Braille, and used it to read not only English but also French, German, Greek, and Latin.
In 1888, Keller attended the Royal Institute For the Blind. In 1894,Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan moved to New York City to attend the Wright-Humason School for the Deaf and Horace Mann School for the Deaf. In 1896, they returned to Massachusetts and Helen entered The Cambridge School for Young Ladies before gaining admittance, in 1900, to Radcliffe College. Her admirer Mark Twain had introduced her to Standard Oil magnate Henry Huttleton Rogers, who, with his wife, paid for her education. In 1904, at the age of 24, Keller graduated from Radcliffe magna cum laude, becoming the first deafblind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree.
Keller went on to become a world-famous speaker and author. She is remembered as an advocate for people with disabilities amid numerous other causes. She was a suffragist, a pacifist, a Wilsonopposer, a radical socialist, and a birth control supporter. In 1915, she founded Helen Keller International, a non-profit organization for preventing blindness. In 1920, she helped to found the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Keller and Sullivan traveled to over 39 countries, making several trips to Japan and becoming a favorite of the Japanese people. Keller met every US President from Grover Cleveland to Lyndon B. Johnson and was friends with many famous figures, including Alexander Graham Bell, Charlie Chaplin and Mark Twain.
Keller was a member of the Socialist Party and actively campaigned and wrote in support of the working classes from 1909 to 1921. She supported Socialist Party candidate Eugene V. Debs in each of his campaigns for the presidency.”
Most likely the best example of an ‘ against all odds’ story I’ve ever heard.