19 March, 2011


Woman of Great Courage

Helen Keller became blind and deaf soon after she was born, but she still managed to learn to read, write, and speak. She was born in Alabama in the United States in 1880. At only the age of 19 months she fell ill. She recovered from this illness but. unfortunately, lost her eyesight and hearing. Since she couldn’t hear other people, she couldn’t learn to speak either.

When she was 6 years old, Alexander Graham Bell, the founder and inventor of telephone and many important inventions, examined her. He was a doctor for speech correction. Bell sent a special teacher named Anne Sullivan, to stay with Helen as her governess and to teach her different methods of communication including lip reading and finger spelling.
Sullivan was herself a remarkable woman. She was very humble and patient. She taught Helen that things had names. She taught Helen to finger spell the alphabet. By using finger spelling on Helen’s palm, Sullivan helped Helen understand names for things that she could feel.

Helen was a hard worker and soon learned to read a form of the alphabet with her fingers. She started to read by feeling raised letters and words on cardboard. Later she learned Braille, a system of writing that many blind people use. Another teacher, Sarah Fuller, taught Helen to speak by having her feel people’s lips and throats as they were talking.

Despite her blindness, Helen Keller wrote numerous articles and several books, including The Story of My Life and Helen Keller’s Journal. Her early life with Anne Sullivan is the subject of a well-known play and film called The Miracle Worker.
Helen Keller died when she was 88 years old. She is remembered as a woman of great courage and intelligence.
As an adult, Helen keller lectured all over the world. And her efforts to improve the treatment of deaf and blind people helped to stop the practice of putting people with physical disabilities into asylums for the mentally ill.

Timeline of Helen Keller

  • 1880: Helen Keller was born on June 27, in Tuscumbia. She was the daughter of Arthur Keller, a former officer in the Confederate army and Kate Adams.
  • 1881: At the age of only 19 months, Helen was stricken with an acute illness (meningitis) which lasted for days on end which left her deprived of her sight and hearing ability. 
  • 1886: Dr. Alexander Graham Bell examined Helen and recognized that she was exceptionally bright. He urged to find a teacher from the Perkins Institute for the Blind. 

  • 1887: Anne Sullivan became her teacher and under her tutorship Helen progressed with language rapidly.
  • 1888-98: Helen learnt to read and write in Braille at the Perkins Institute and learned to speak at the Horace Mann School for the Deaf. She studied at the Wright-Humason School for the Deaf, the Cambridge School for Young Ladies and the Radcliffe College. 

  • 1899: Mark Twain recognized her great spirit and intelligence despite her deafness and blindness. 
  • 1900: Helen enrolled as a regular student in Radcliffe College with the help of Anne Sullivan. 

  • 1903: Her first book, The Story of My Life was published. It was an autobiography.
  • 1904: Helen became the first blind and deaf person to graduate from Radcliffe College. 
  • 1908: Her second book, The World I Live In was published. 
  • 1915: Helen Keller International (HKI) was founded. 

  • 1919: Helen Keller met Charlie Chaplin. 
  • 1924: Helen conducted many tours and lectures in United States of America. She worked for improving educational opportunities for the deaf, blind and mute. 
  • 1925: She successfully challenged Lions International, the largest fraternal organization of the world. 

  • 1926: Helen met President Calvin Coolidge. 
  • 1927, 29: Her popular book, My Religion was published. Her another book Midstream: My Later Life at 49 was published in 1929. 
  • 1932: Braille was accepted as the world’s standard alphabet for the blind. It resulted from the great efforts by the Royal Institute for the blind in UK. 

  • 1937: Helen Keller developed a close relationship with the Japanese people. She delivered 97 lectures in 39 cities. 
  • 1938: Helen Keller’s Journal was published. 
  • 1941: She attended a performance at the Opera House in New York and experienced music through vibrations. 
  • 1943-46: Helen Keller visited the military hospitals. She referred to it as the crowning experience of her life. 
  • 1946-57: Helen visited 35 countries for the improvement in education of the handicapped people. The government started the schools for deaf and blind. 
  • 1953: She met Winston Churchill and Jawaharlal Nehru, then Indian Prime Minister. She was honoured by the French government in the ceremony commemorating the birth of Louie Braille at Sorbonne, Paris. 
  • 1954: Helen’s birthplace, Ivy Green in Tuscumbia, Alabama was made a permanent shrine. 
  • 1955: Helen Keller achieved an Oscar Award for the documentary movie made on her life. Her book Teacher-Anne Sullivan was published in the same year. 
  • 1956: Helen became the first woman to receive an honorary degree from Harvard University. 
  • 1960: She met President Eisenhower who became the first non-blind person to use the talking books during his recovery from heart attack. 
  • 1961: Helen met President John F. Kennedy, the 10th. 
  • 1964: Helen Keller suffered from stroke and later retired from public life. She received an award the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon Johnson. 
  • 1968: Helen Keller died at the age of 88 years. She was buried at Washington Cathedral, Washington, D.C.

Helen Keller Quotes:

  • Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure.
  • Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow.
  • Never bend your head. Hold it high. Look the world straight in the eye.
  • Be of good cheer. Do not think of today's failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourself a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles.
  • Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light.
  • What a blind person needs is not a teacher but another self.
  • Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content.

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