"For many generations, more than we can count, we bowed our heads and submitted to blindness and begging. This blind and deaf woman lifts her head high and teaches us to win our way back by work and laughter. She brings light and hope to the heart."
-Quote from a Japanese woman about Helen Keller
Helen Keller was born on June 27, 1880, in the state of Alabama in the United States. As an infant she was healthy, lively, and happy, but when she was 19 months old she contracted a horrible fever and she was left deaf and blind.
So, Helen communicated by using specific signs that meant specific words, like wrapping her arms around herself and shivering if she wanted ice cream. But her attitude began to go downhill when she was 5 and discovered other people would talk with their mouths. This made her very upset, so she threw tantrums which got worse as she got older. When she was almost seven years old, her family got her a tutor: Anne Sullivan.
Helen had finally found her match, for Anne could control her with sheer willpower and force. Soon, Anne began teaching Helen words by signing them into Helen's hand (forming letters with her fingers) so Helen could feel them. Anne spelled out "water" and splashed water on Helen's hand repeatedly. Finally, Helen realized what words related and their spellings.
Anne and Helen's progress continued for almost fifty years. Helen learned how to read and write Braille, a language where letters are made from a series of raised dots. Helen also learned Tacoma, reading people's lips by touching them as they moved and feeling the vibrations. This was an amazing feat because this is very difficult to do and a very small sum of people can accomplish this. And, of course, Helen learned how to speak verbally.
In 1888, Helen and Anne attended Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston, Massachusetts. Then, in 1894, they attended Wright-Humason School for the Deaf in New York together. While in Radcliffe College, Helen wrote her own autobiography titled The Story of My Life. She graduated from Radcliffe College in 1904. Then, in 1932, Helen was elected vice president of the United Kingdom's Royal Nation Institute for the Blind.
Helen died in 1968, having accomplished many feats. In addition, she had helped set up the American Foundation for the Blind and had been a fervent socialist and suffragette. Helen Keller International, an organization devoted to the blind, was created in her honor.