The name of Helen Adams Keller is known around the world as a symbol of courage in the face of overwhelming odds, yet she was much more than a symbol. She was a woman of luminous intelligence, high ambition and great accomplishment. She devoted her life to helping others.
Helen Keller was born in Tuscumbia, Alabama, in 1880. When she was only 19 months old, she contracted a fever that left her blind and deaf. When she was almost seven years old, her parents engaged Anne Mansfield Sullivan to be her tutor. With dedication, patience, courage and love, Miss Sullivan was able to evoke and help develop the child’s enormous intelligence.
Helen Keller quickly learned to read and write, and began to speak by the age of 10. When she was 20, she entered Radcliffe College, with Miss Sullivan at her side to spell textbooks – letter by letter – into her hand. Four years later, Radcliffe awarded Helen Keller a Bachelor’s degree magna cum laude.
After graduation, Helen Keller began her life’s work of helping blind and deaf-blind people. She appeared before state and national legislatures and international forums, traveled around the world to lecture and to visit areas with a high incidence of blindness, and wrote numerous books and articles. She met every U. S. president from Grover Cleveland to Lyndon Johnson, and played a major role in focusing the world’s attention on the problems of the blind and the need for preventive measures.
Miss Keller won numerous honors, including honorary university degrees, the Lions Humanitarian Award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and election to the Women’s Hall of Fame. During her lifetime, she was consistently ranked near the top of “most admired” lists. She died in 1968, leaving a legacy that Helen Keller International is proud to carry on in her name and memory.