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Helen Keller: Finding Life Through Darkness

by pureinspirationalenergy

Helen Keller (June 27, 1880 – June 1, 1968) was best known for having become blind and deaf at 19 months old from an unknown illness. She communicated with her lifelong companion and teacher Anne Sullivan using home signs, which are signs invented by children as a unique method usually from child to child. Despite her limitations, once Sullivan managed to teach her communication methods she was shown to have remarkable intelligence and began learning quickly. She wrote 14 books and hundreds of essays and speeches of various topics including woman’s suffrage, labor rights, vouching for people with disabilities, world peace, and much more.⁣⁣⁣


Helen Keller was known for communicating her in depth thoughts about the world she only knew through taste, touch, and smell. Her descriptions of her life had many moments simply with loved ones that were described much like a child’s first visit to Disney World. She described the touch of people as bewildering and highly informational:

“The hands of those I meet are dumbly eloquent to me. The touch of some hands is an impertinence. I have met people so empty of joy, that when I clasped their frosty finger-tips, it seemed as if I were shaking hands with a northeast storm. Others there are whose hands have sunbeams in them, so that their grasp warms my heart. It may be only the clinging touch of a child’s hand; but there is as much potential sunshine in it for me as there is in a loving glance for others. A hearty handshake or a friendly letter gives me genuine pleasure.”
Albert Camus

Her descriptions gave insight into the life of the blind and deaf and inspired people with disabilities for years to come, bringing awareness that just because somebody has a disabled sense (or two) doesn’t mean they are any less descriptive, intelligent, or sociable and especially not any less sensitive.

Helen Keller’s Early Years

Helen was born in Tuscumbia, Alabama, her father having served as a captain of the Confederate army and her mother being the daughter of a Confederate general.  She grew up with four siblings, one full sister and a brother, and two half-brothers. Some of her methods to communicate were noticed with the help of the cook’s daughter that she befriended, and by the age of seven she had around 60 home signs that she used for basic needs and communication.


1888, Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan

The Kellers had been referred to Alexander Graham Bell who was assisting deaf children at the time and he advised them to contact the Perkins Institute for the Blind. It was here where the school director had asked a 20-year old alumni Anne Sullivan to assist Helen. On March 7, 1885, she had arrived at her house and this was the start of a 50-year long relationship that Helen had described as her “soul’s birthday.” The training began right away to teach her how to communicate using the tapping of fingers, however she didn’t pick it up right away, having just been repeating the taps in how she described, “making my fingers go in a monkey-like imitation.” A month later, the persistent Anne had brought Helen to running water and placed her hand into it as she continued to tap the sequence of letters on her arm. In her autobiography she is quoted saying: 

I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motions of her fingers. Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten — a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that w-a-t-e-r meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. The living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, set it free!”
Helen Keller



Helen’s Education

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