By Samantha Williams (11/17/16)
I chose Helen Keller as my favorite person in Deaf history. I know she wasn’t in the book, but she’s always been my favorite!
Helen Keller was born June 27, 1880, in Tuscumbia, AL. At only 19 months old she fell ill with an illness that is still unknown. Doctors suggested it might’ve been either scarlet fever or meningitis, but neither were proven to be positive. For only about a year and a half, Helen Keller could see the world and hear anything. She barely got to experience it. For the rest of her life she would be forced to understand her surroundings through only touch, smell, and taste. At the age of 6 she realized that her family communicated with their mouths by feeling their moving lips and she wanted to be a part of that communication, so she started throwing fits when she didn’t understand. Helen is quoted later from her writing saying: “The need of some means of communication became so urgent that these outbursts occurred daily, sometimes hourly.”
On March 3, 1887, a woman named Anne Sullivan was sent to Alabama to be Helen’s teacher by a man named Michael Anagnos, the director of Perkins School of the Blind, by request of Helen’s parents. Helen again can be quoted from her writing referring to this day as her “soul’s birthday.” Helen however, at the age of 7, was not an easy student. She kicked, punched, hit, and even knocked teeth out of Anne’s mouth! Anne decided to take a different route in Helen’s education and moved into a cottage on the Keller’s property with her so she would be away from all the people who were babying her or being too soft on her. This way Helen would have no one to run to if she didn’t like what Anne was doing.
Anne began teaching her fingerspelling and trying to show her that she was spelling the names of objects, but Helen thought it was all a game. Until that one famous moment when Anne ran water over Helen’s hand and spelled W-A-T-E-R in her hand over and over again until it finally clicked for her.
Anne brought Helen to Perkins one year later and she loved it! She finally felt like she was at home with people who understood her more and played with children she could talk to and relate to. When she was older she attended Radcliffe College and became the first deaf person to receive a Bachelor of Arts Degree. In 1956 the Keller-Sullivan Building was dedicated and became the home of the Perkins DeafBlind Program. She went on to become an author, a lecturer, and a political activist. She devoted her life to humanitarian pursuits including advocating for rights of women and the disabled community. She died on June 1, 1968, leaving behind a legacy that will never be forgotten and inspiration for all people that no matter what you might face in life, you can always pursue your dreams.