For inspiration, one needs look no farther than the story of Helen Keller. Here was a deafblind woman who, despite the loss of her sight and hearing as a toddler and the obstacles of her time, learned to read, write, and even to speak. Plus, she even graduated cum laude from college as the first deafblind person to ever do so! The story of Helen Keller is the story of a normal child who, at the age of 18 months, was suddenly shut off from the world but, against overwhelming odds, waged a slow, hard but successful battle to re-enter that same world. The child grew into a highly intelligent and sensitive woman who wrote, spoke and labored incessantly for the betterment of others.
Helen was born in Tuscumbia, Alabama on June 27, 1880. However, her real life began one day in March of 1887, when she was almost seven years old. She was always to call that the most important day I can remember in my life. It was the day when Annie Sullivan, a 20 year old graduate of the Perkins School for the Blind, came to be her teacher. They were inseparable until Annies death in 1936.
Even as a little girl Helen expressed a desire to go to college. In 1900 she entered Radcliffe College and graduated from there cum laude in 1904. She thus became the first deaf-blind person to graduate from college. Throughout these years, Annie Sullivan laboriously spelled books and lectures into her pupil’s hand.
While still at Radcliffe, Helen Keller began the writing career which was to continue for 50 years. In addition to The Story of My Life, she wrote 11 other books and numerous articles on blindness, deafness, social issues and women’s rights.
Despite the broad range of her interests, Helen Keller never lost sight of the needs of others who were blind and deaf-blind. She was a personal friend of Dr. Peter J. Salmon, Executive Director of Helen Keller Services for the Blind (then known as the Industrial Home for the Blind) and lent her support to the establishment of what has become known as the Helen Keller National Center for the Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults. She was a visitor to a number of facilities and programs operated by IHB.
In 1936, Helen Keller moved to Westport, CT where she lived until her death on June 1, 1968 at the age of 87. In his eulogy at her funeral, Senator Lister Hill said of her, She will live on, one of the few, immortal names not born to die. Her spirit will endure as long as man can read and stories can be told of the women who showed the world there are no boundaries to courage and faith.