Helen Keller

On June 27, l880, there was born in Tuscumbia, Alabama, a beautiful baby girl. At the age of l9 months, she was taken ill and after lingering for weeks near death, she recovered, but the illness left her totally and permanently blind and deaf. "
"I can't believe it; it's terrible," her mother told the doctor. "What can be done?"
"There are miracles, but as a doctor I cannot see where one is possible in this case," replied the doctor.
The doctor was wrong, fo r out of this most unusual case came a miracle after all. Can anyone tell me the name of this unfortunate child of darkness and silence? Helen Keller! Can you also name her teacher? Ann Sullivan.
Helen Keller's mother and father gave up any hope of a miracle. The child remained in her own dark, silent world responding to nothing, unable to perform any of the ordinary everyday actions of normal children. There was no way to teach her anything. She would see nothing, hear nothing, never le arn to speak. She would live entirely alone-forever.
One day Mrs. Keller read that a blind and deaf girl had been taught to read and write by the Perkins School for the Blind in Boston. She wrote to the Institute and explained the situation concerning her daughter, Helen. The Institute suggested they send one of their recent graduates to Alabama to teach the Keller girl, now a lmost seven years old. This was arranged, and Ann Sullivan was selected to take over the task of teaching the helpless Helen Keller.
Ann Sullivan was born nearly blind and had spent six years at the Perkins Institute. After two operations on her eyes, she could see very well and was at the top of her class. Ann Sullivan arrived in Alabama just a few months before Helen Keller reached the age of seven. The first thing Ann Sullivan did was to arrange for quarters apart from the Keller ho usehold for just the two of them, the teacher and the unfortunate Helen Keller. For four or five weeks, Ann Sullivan tried to find some way to make contact with the mind of this sullen and moody child. Helen was a little savage. She screamed, she kicked, she wept and bit, but Ann was patient and continued day after day to try to communicate with the child. She had a finger code that she used by pressing her fingers into the palm of Helen's hand. She would dip the child's finger in water hour after hou r and simultaneously would press the palm of the child's hand with the finger code. After about five weeks, one day she dipped the child's whole hand in water and suddenly the finger alphabet code she had been tapping in Helen's hand meant "water"-the first communication to reach into the little girl's consciousness and start her toward a fabulous career that made Helen Keller one of the most famous women in the history of our country.
Mark Twain, the famous writer, once said, "The two m ost interesting characters of the l9th Century are Napoleon Bonaparte and Helen Keller." And when this was said Helen Keller was only fifteen years old.
Helen Keller had made tremendous progress. She learned to read Braille in English, then in Latin, Greek, French and German and she learned to converse with others through her finger language. When she was ten she heard of a Norwegian child that was deaf being taught to speak and she demanded that she be taught to speak and after the eleventh lesson she said quite suddenly in a strange voice, "I am not dumb now." At the age of 20, Helen entered Radcliffe College and emerged four years later with a Bachelor of Arts Degree and top honors against girls who could see and hear. After college, she wrote The Story of My Life and later was to write six more books and hundreds of articles for newspapers and magazines.
She could not speak at all until she was nine years old. Later she was to lecture in every state of the Union. She also appeared as a headliner on the Vaudeville circuit for four years and traveled all over Europe. In l9l8, she made a movie in Hollywood, California, and played the leading role, but the film was badly made and was not a success. One of Helen's staunchest friends was Alexander Graham Bell, who was a professor of speech at Boston University and the inventor of the t elephone. He helped her in many ways and with him and her teacher they visited many parts of the country, feeling the spray of Niagara Falls, meeting great men in Washington. Helen would talk happily-with her hand on their throats-to men like Woodrow Wilson and Andrew Carnegie.
After World War I, Helen Keller joined the American Foundation for the Blind and worked untiringly with the soldiers who had been blinded in the war. In l936, her teacher Ann Sullivan died. It was a hard blow, but Helen was quite capable of looking out for herself. During the Second World War, she made tours of the war theatres, talking to blinded soldiers, sailors and airmen, giving them a splendid example of one who had overcome a tremendous handicap. When the war was over she visited many other countries, lecturing and giving strength to the blind by her example.
After her travels, she returned to the Foundation for the Blind, working to help others without sight. In l950, Hellen Ke ller was 70 years old and she had been working continuously for the blind for 50 years. It was a great anniversary and the world press heralded the fact that this extraordinary lady would celebrate it by taking her first ever holiday. She went happily to France and a tour of Europe and from the press reports, she "had a ball." The holiday over, Helen Keller returned to her work with the blind and continued on for another l8 years. She died in l968, just a few weeks before her 88th birt hday. Helen Keller was a great lady and I got a great thrill out of my research on this remarkable woman.

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