Helen Keller

Article

July 6, 2022

Helen Adams Keller (June 27, 1880 – June 1, 1968) was an American writer, lecturer, and social activist. She was the first deafblind person in history to earn a bachelor's degree.

Anne Sullivan

The story of how her teacher, Anne Sullivan, managed to break through the isolation imposed by the almost total lack of communication, allowing the girl to flourish while learning to communicate, became widely known through the screenplay of the play The Miracle Worker, which became the movie. The Miracle of Anne Sullivan (1962), directed by Arthur Penn (in Portugal, The Miracle of Helen Keller). Her birthday June 27 is celebrated as Helen Keller Day in the state of Pennsylvania, and was authorized at the federal level through Jimmy Carter's 1980 presidential proclamation on the centenary of her birth. She became a celebrated and prolific writer, philosopher and lecturer, famous for the extensive work she did on behalf of people with disabilities. Keller traveled extensively and expressed his convictions forcefully. A member of the Socialist Party of America and the Industrial Workers of the World, she participated in campaigns for women's suffrage, labor rights, socialism, and other progressive causes. She was inducted into the Alabama Women's Hall of Fame in 1971.

Childhood, illness and first words

Born in Tuscumbia, Alabama, on June 27, 1880, Helen was the daughter of Kate Adams Keller and Colonel Arthur Keller (Captain of the Confederate States of America Army). Helen became blind and deaf at the age of 18 months due to an illness then diagnosed as "brain fever" (now believed to have possibly been scarlet fever or meningitis). Already at that time she was able to communicate with the daughter of the family cook, through signs. At age 7, Keller already had more than 60 signs with which she communicated with her family. In 1886, her mother, inspired by Charles Dickens' American Notes account of the successful education of another deaf woman, Laura Bridgman, dispatched young Keller, accompanied by her father, to see physician J. Julian Chisolm, a specialist in in eyes, ears, nose and throat in Baltimore seeking advice. Chisolm referred the Kellers to Alexander Graham Bell, who was working with a deaf child at the time. Bell, in turn, advised them to hire the Perkins Institute for the Blind, the school where Laura Bridgman had been educated, located in South Boston. Michael Anagnos, the school's principal, asked former student Anne Sullivan, herself a visually impaired person, to become Helen's instructor. This was the beginning of a 49-year relationship during which Sullivan became Keller's teacher and companion. Anne Sullivan arrived at Keller's home on March 3, 1887, when she was 20 years old, and immediately began teaching her to communicate by spelling out words on her hand, starting with the word 'doll', while using a doll that the kids at Perkins School had made for Helen. Anne believed that she could teach Helen the connection between objects and words. Helen learned the letters quickly and in the correct order, but she didn't know they formed words. At first, Keller was frustrated because she didn't understand that each object had a unique word to identify it. In fact, when Sullivan was trying to teach her the word "mug," Keller was so frustrated that she broke the mug. Her great evolutionary leap in communication began the following month (April 5, 1887), when she realized that the movements her teacher made in the palm of her hand, while letting the water run over her other hand, symbolized the idea of ​​" Water". That same day, Helen learned 30 words, and from then on, she practically took Sullivan to