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A Short Biography of Helen Keller

The journey of life is one where we not only overcome obstacles but should strive
to help others overcome theirs. The life of Helen Adams Keller exemplifies this
principle.



The obstacle this Alabama native, born in 1880, had to overcome was being both
blind and deaf, the result of a sickness that afflicted her at the age of 18 months. Any
sights and sounds she had observed and any words that she had learnt were soon
forgotten.



At the age of seven, having received diagnosis from a series of doctors who all
concluded she could never interact with others, her parents contacted the Perkins
Institute of the Blind and Deaf, headquartered in Boston. They requested a tutor to
help their daughter, and received a young teacher named Anne Sullivan, who
provided home tuition for Helen.


Miss Sullivan went to great lengths for her pupil, using the manual alphabet to
spell the names of objects that Helen could feel with her fingers. She would place her
fingers in Helen's palm and spell the names of objects just by changing the position
of her fingers. The catalyst was the word water. By a process of association, Miss
Sullivan would spill water on Helen's hand and then spell the word water. Helen
caught on in time: the finger movement meant the same thing as the liquid she felt.
The other doctors had been wrong, Helen could communicate.



Helen's learning proceeded quickly: within a couple of years she had become
literate in Braille. Now, Miss Sullivan began to teach Helen to speak. Helen would
put her hand against Miss Sullivan's throat and feel the vibrations of her speech. She
would then put her hand against her own throat and attempt to create her own
vibrations. Helen learned so well from Miss Sullivan that her education entitled her
to attend Radcliffe College, and was accompanied by her tutor there who spelled the
lectures into her hand. Helen would graduate with honors in 1904 with a Bachelor
of Arts degree, the very first deaf and blind person to ever do so.



Having overcome her own handicaps to become a well-educated college graduate,


Helen devoted the rest of her life to helping the blind of the deaf. Miss Sullivan
remained her companion, travelling throughout the world to raise money through
public appearances for her cause. After her death, a young Scottish lady called Polly
Thompson became her companion. Helen Keller would continue with her work until
her death.



Helen Keller became one of the most educated women who ever lived in spite of
her handicaps and advocated helping others who may be afflicted to reach their full
potential. I submit to you, readers, how many of us who do not have such obstacles
to overcome, can say the same? But it is as powerful an incentive as one can find.