Helen Keller is an internationally acclaimed author and lecturer. And that is so amazing because she was deaf and blind.
When I was in elementary school, we learned all about Helen Keller. I completed a report on her and dressed up as Anne Sullivan in the fourth grade. Helen is the most famous deaf-blind person of all time.
Helen was born in Tuscumbia, Alabama in 1880. She lost both her sight and hearing when she came down with meningitis at only eighteen months old.
Despite the fact Helen was virtually unable to communicate; her parents were determined to find a tutor for her because they believed she could learn. They finally met Anne Sullivan, and their hopes were fulfilled.
Anne graduated from the Perkin’s Institute for the Deaf and Blind in Boston (where Laura Bridgman–the first Helen Keller–was educated). Anne herself was partially blind, but she learned the manual alphabet while she was a student at the Institute.
Anne Sullivan taught Helen the manual alphabet by pressing the handshapes into Helen’s palm. Helen was soon able to read Braille and write with a special typewriter. Helen also eventually learned to speak by feeling Anne’s throat as she spoke and imitating the vibrations.
Helen made history in 1904. She was the first deaf and blind person to graduate from college. She graduated from Radcliffe College with honors.
Even before she earned her degree, she was a published author. The Story of My Life was released in 1903 as her first book. She later published many other books including The World I Live In in 1908, Let Us Have Faith in 1940, and The Open Door in 1957.
Speaking about war, capital punishment, and child labor, Keller lectured all over the world for most of her life. As a champion for people with disabilities, she provided inspiration for those who might have otherwise lost hope.
Anne Sullivan was a constant companion to Helen until her death in 1936. At the age of eighty-eight, Helen died in 1968 in Westport, Connecticut. Playwright William Gibson’s The Miracle Worker was based on Anne and Helen’s lifelong friendship.
Helen is truly an inspiration to all people–not just people with disabilities. She proves that anything can be accomplished through hard work, dedication, and faith.
The Best Helen Keller Book
The Story of My Life
This book is absolutely fantastic. It seems that everyone knows the story of Helen Keller, but reading it in Helen’s own words is very exciting. The book includes original letters written by Helen from the age of 8 as well as commentary of Helen’s education, speech, and personality written by Anne Sullivan and others. We highly recommend this book for anyone interested in learning more about this inspiring woman.
Please note that when you choose to purchase through the external links on this website (in many but not all cases) we will receive a referral commission. However, this commission does not influence the information we provide in this site. We always give honest opinions and reviews to share our findings, beliefs, and/or experiences. You can view our full disclosure on this page.
Helen Keller Papers Submitted by Students
Who is your favorite person from Deaf history?
A Second Look at Myself
by Samantha (Vermont) | August 17, 2010
I do not believe Helen Keller is the most important person in Deaf History, but I do believe she inspired me the most. I have learned quite a bit about Helen Keller since I was first introduced to her life in the fifth grade. I have glasses, and I am hard of hearing.
I used to feel quite unlucky. Once I got both my glasses, and the news I wasn’t able to hear very well (all within the same couple of months), I was discouraged and upset. In my seventh grade year, I had an assignment to write about someone in history who inspired me.
My class went into the library, and were told we had to check out a biography. I searched for a while, and stumbled into a biography about Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan. When I realized Helen Keller was both deaf and blind, I felt sympathetic, and then curious. I checked the book out, and then started to read.
Her struggle as a child made me look back at my own struggles. Suddenly I started to realize that ‘Hey, I can hear’, and ‘Yes, I can see.’ I could communicate. As I read about the battles she fought to be educated, I felt ashamed I ever was discouraged. As a 12-year-old girl, I soon figured out that I shouldn’t feel sorry for myself.
Helen Keller’s graduation and her honors quickly brought me to take that second look at myself. That it doesn’t matter what disadvantages I have, but instead the power of experiencing the world in a different way than people without those disadvantages.
Helen inspired me. She fought, she lived, and she thrived in a world very foreign to those of us who can see, and those of us who can hear. She brought out a different person in me, and to that I am thankful. To that, I am inspired.
by Sheridan Mercer | September 9, 2016
My favorite person from deaf history is Helen Keller. She was an author, political activist and lecturer. She never let her disability get in her way of accomplishing her dreams and doing what she wanted in life.
She was born June 27nd, 1880 in Alabama and died June 1st, 1967 in Connecticut. She went to school at Harvard University and was the first blind-deaf person to get a bachelors degree for arts. She was born able to see and hear but at the age of 19 months, she got an illness which the doctors referred to it as an acute congestion of the stomach and brain. The illness left her both blind and deaf.
As Helen got older, she went on to become on the most famous speakers and authors in the world. She published 12 books and several articles. In 1915, she and George Kessler created the foundation, The Helen Keller International organization, otherwise known as HKI. This organization focused on research for vision, health and nutrition.
In conclusion, Helen Keller is my favorite historical deaf person because even though an illness took away her ability to see and hear she went on to do big things and didn’t let her disabilities stop her.
by Priscilla Herrera (Houston, Texas) | March 8, 2013
The reason I choose Helen Keller is because she not only being blind but also deaf demonstrated that impaired people can also lead a very good life.
She demonstrated to everyone that being impaired doesn’t make her or anyone else in the same position any different from everyone else. And because she showed her braveness she graduated from college with honors. And I’m pretty sure that after her doing what she did a lot of undocumented persons followed her footsteps and did the same thing and graduated from college and maybe more to become someone important to their families.
I my self am a parent of one deaf child and one hard of hearing child, so me and millions of other people and those who fought for our right to be able to teach our children sign language and help them have some form of communication to also lead successful life.
Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller
by Donald Jerry Bartley (Barefoot Bay, Florida) | June 24, 2013
I was born with full hearing. At the age of three, I came down with meningitis and suffered a profound loss of hearing from battling the illness. My ability to lipread developed fairly quickly and as a result my hearing loss was not discovered until I was in the second grade. I was fitted with powerful hearing aids and continued my education in a public school system with hearing peers. I did okay in school, but felt like an outcast at the time due to difficulty communicating with my classmates.
In 1966, I saw “The Miracle Worker” for the first time. Finally, I had a role model to help guide me. Within a week after watching the movie, I checked Helen’s autobiography out from my school library. I had to learn more. I saw Keller as a person with a disability greater than mine who was able to overcome her limitations with the help of her teacher, Anne Sullivan, and be successful. Her amazing story compelled me to try harder in school. With hard work and the help of some amazing teachers, I graduated from high school with honors.
In 1984, I had an ear infection that left me completely deaf in one ear and a 95% nerve loss in the other. In 1993, I developed an ear infection in that ear which left me totally deaf in the other. I was operated on and received a cochlear implant device later that year. While recovering from the operation and adjusting to the new hearing system, I reread Helen’s biography. Her amazing story once again inspired me. I decided to attend a local university and get a degree. Every time I got discouraged in my studies, I picked up Helen’s book and reread select passages. I went on to earn a bachelor and master’s degree of Science.
I was ten when Helen died. The contributions she made for the deaf and the blind and others is exceptional. Helen may not have achieved the success she had without the help of Anne Sullivan. It is for that reason, I included Anne Sullivan as one of my favorite people in deaf history. I am hoping to use my education and life experiences to help others in the deaf community.
Helen Adams Keller
by Ruby Solomon | April 9, 2017
With the help of “teacher” (Anne Sullivan), Keller became the first deaf-blind person to earn a bachelor of arts degree. Helen was a political activist, lecturer, and American author. Helen’s incredible story is still known today through her books Story of My Life (1903), The World I Live In (1908), and Out of the Dark (1913). Even without any vision, Helen seemed to be able to see the world in a way nobody ever had. However, her childhood was not an easy one.
Born on June 27, 1880 with both her sight and hearing, Keller seemed to be an average child. At 19 months old, Helen contracted a serious illness that left her deaf and blind. The only person who seemed to be able to communicate with Helen was the six-year-old girl named Martha Washington who was the daughter of a servant. Helen’s parents, Arthur H. Keller (known as Captain) and Kate Adams, decided to hire someone to teach and educate Helen.
Anne Sullivan arrived at the Keller’s home in March of 1887. The young teacher immediately began spelling words into Helen’s hand and then giving the girl the object. Helen became frustrated because she could not understand that the objects that she was given had a word which uniquely identified it. Anne’s struggle of trying to teach Helen is portrayed in the dramatic play The Miracle Worker. As seen in the play, Helen finally realizes that each object, person and idea has a word to go with it when Miss.Sullivan spells water in Helen’s hand when she has her hands under cool running water.
When Helen became in touch with the outside world, she began to learn and develop quickly with the help of Anne who was referred to as “teacher”. In May of 1888 Keller attended the Perkins Institute for the Blind followed by a number of schools which helped her learn and become the first women to earn a bachelor of arts degree.
Helen Keller is an inspiration who stood up for what she believes in, projected her values and continued to learn despite those that thought she couldn’t do it.
by Tina Douglass (Kahlotus, Washington) | March 20, 2013
Helen Keller was born in Tuscumbia, Alabama on June 27, 1880. Her father was Arthur H Keller and her teacher was Anne Sullivan. Keller at 19 months old got scarlet fever which left her blind and deaf.
As a deaf blind child who was badly spoiled because her parents didn’t know how to connect to her besides giving her candy when she acted out and giving her her way because they could not communicate with her.
Then Anne Sullivan at age 21, half blind herself, came to teach Helen how to use sign starting with alphabet. After Helen realized water was w-a-t-e-r she realized what words were she later went on to college and writing novels which included The Story of My Life, The World I Live In, and My Religion.
She also took a interest in women’s rights and the right to take birth control and rights for the deaf and the blind. Keller and Anne Sullivan did many great things together and apart after finding each other.
by Tina Herrera (Hagerstown, Maryland) | September 22, 2014
For my assignment of who I consider my favorite deaf person I would have to say it is hands down HELEN KELLER.
I think not only her deafness at first was her trial of life but her blindness as well for she had both at the same time. She was burden with two challenges in life that could have kept her from wanting to achieve her goals and normal acts of life. Not only was she determined to rise above all the obstacles in life but she was an inspiration to millions of people not just the deaf but the blind as well as the rest of the world. She achieved a lot while she lived a life of two challenges being blind and deaf but still was able to achieve the following: she became an american author, a political activist and lecturer, she published 12 books, devoted 40 years to help the blind and deaf.
She did not allow her illness when she was a baby to define the person she set out to become. She did not let it stop her or the devotion she had in her heart of learning and achieving the impossible. Not only would I consider her a miracle child but an outstanding role model to many others with the challenges she to had to face in life. I don’t like saying people are either cursed or born with handicap disabilities because in a way you are down grading there personality or abilities. I think that God does not curse or give disabilities out to his children just some challenges in life that they may or may not be able to achieve.
All people should not be discriminated for what they can and can not do for this world is not perfect and people are born differently. Just because some people may not evolve like many others does not mean they are disabled it just means that they have to learn to do things differently than others. I don’t think that is a disability I think it is just a concept of new learning and forms of knowledge.
There is so much I can go on about deaf culture and the traditions for it has taught me that life experiences are more true to the heart than just learning and involving one self into the life of the deaf. For understanding the true challenge in life trials gives you a whole new concept and emotions that they lived with day by day. People can say they understand how deaf people feel but I don’t think that’s all true, but everyone’s belief is different. Deaf people and deaf culture is unique but a hearing world will never be able to grasp the concept of their real emotions just able to deal with it in forms of knowledge and learning their ways of communication.
As long as the world is open to learn new things in new ways then there is no need to label people as handicap or disabled. That is all for this essay but know this many deaf, blind, or mentally challenge people in this world become great leaders as well as great role models never underestimate them for they will surprise you and rise above all obstacles in their path.
Helen Keller and Deaf-Blind Education
by Contributed (NY) | March 8, 2013
I would like to choose Helen Keller. Working as a volunteer for a non profit religious organization that regularly produces, makes and distributes thousands of American Sign Language DVD’s and Braille publications for Deaf and deaf-blind all over the world, I have had the opportunity to read Helen’s life story and share her story with visitors that tour our printery.
I chose Keller not only because I was impressed with her remarkable life accomplishments, but because I personally know many deaf blind friends like her that show a remarkable zeal for their beliefs. These ones are from all walks of life and although many live in the United States, countless other friends live in countries that are less fortunate of government funding. Yet all of them, no matter what their status demonstrate everyday and to many onlookers that by having a self sacrificing spirit and trust in God, they are very confident that they can help and encourage people of all walks of life to have a happy satisfying life now, and a wonderful hope for the future.
They devote many hours to personal study of the Bible in Braille and American Sign language and consider it a blessing to have many good examples of like faith. They voluntarily make every effort where deaf and blind can be contacted, starting with their friends, family and even so called prominent and influential people to insure that they benefit from a well rounded education of the Bible by making good use of American Sign Language videos, Braille publications and any other technology available. Although they respect the contributions of Keller and other historical Deaf figures that have made Deaf culture what it is today, they are impartial to all people both in the hearing world and Deaf world.
I value all the accomplishments made in the deaf community and love the deaf with all my heart. This is why I have dedicated much time to learning and improving my signing skill in an effort to encourage and support them. Thank you for providing your website for free. It is truly educational!
Helen Keller + Annie Sullivan
by H.M. Wilson (USA) | August 27, 2015
Although Helen Keller was not the first deaf-blind student to be educated, I still feel inspired when I read the story about how she and Annie Sullivan established a relationship based on learning. Their special teacher-student relationship has always been one of my favorite tales, because it shows me that anyone can teach & anyone can learn.
On Sullivan and Keller’s first day of work together, it probably seemed unlikely that one day young Keller would graduate with honors and become an inspiration to people everywhere. Annie and Helen both probably had doubts at different times, but as a team they pushed through any difficulties and doubts they encountered, and together they proved the world wrong–deaf people are different, but certainly not less.
Annie and Helen both show me that everyone has something to teach, everyone has something to learn, and all of us have thing that we can share in common, no matter our differences. On bad days, I sometimes feel that I have nothing special to give, that I will never be able to learn anything new, or that no one understands me. But through the Keller-Sullivan story, and by God’s amazing grace, I am shown the infinite possibilities of teaching, learning, and adding to the beauty of the world we live in today.
Helen Keller: A True Inspiration
by Jessica Kilpatrick (Tennessee) | March 8, 2013
Even though it sounds kind of corny, Helen Keller should be an inspiration to everyone, not just those challenged ones. She was denied TWO things that the average person takes for granted: hearing and eyesight. However even with her hardships, she still held her head high and achieved greatness!
As a second year college student myself, I cannot even begin to understand how this STRONG young woman would go on to earn a college degree. It is amazing enough that as a woman she achieved such marvelous things, but to have THREE different things going against her, WOW!!!!!!
I wish every person in this great world was as determined as she had to have been. I wish I could have the determination that she possessed. I am not sure even if I was faced with just one of her challenges, that I would be able to continue to seek my degree! Or even that I would have been presented with the challenge to seek my degree in the first place.
I think every person faced with a difficult road through college or even high school should take note of the Keller story. Ms. Keller deserves to be looked at as not only an inspiration to the challenged, but an inspiration to each and every individual who wants to achieve greatness! LET NOTHING STAND IN YOUR WAY!!!!
Much More Than I Expected!
by Lori Holden (WV)
Even though I never realized that she was not the first blind and deaf person to be educated I would have to say my favorite person in Deaf history is Helen Keller. I learned of her life when I was very young and I spent much time trying to imagine what it would be like to live a totally dark and quiet world. I was astonished by the fact that she was able to overcome such hurdles to become not only functioning in society, but became a very prominent and outspoken role model in the story of humankind.
Helen’s life impacted me in a way that I cannot explain well. I grew up with many disadvantages. I sometimes would become overwhelmed by the realities of society. Then I would reminisce on her life story. Doing this would aid me in gaining strength and determination to accomplish any task. Because she helped me to realize that all things are possible. I just needed had to have the will to do them.
Even though I am neither blind nor deaf, Helen was a source of great determination, courage and power of self in my eyes. Now, that I have learned of Laura Bridgman through this course (And thank you by the way!) I will have another wonder to learn of gain resilience from. And the small portion of the Deaf history I have learned here has proved to be great inspiration.
As soon as I can afford, I will be purchasing the other books that are available from your organization. And I would like to thank you for this wealth of knowledge and the whole experience I have received so far from this course. It is truly awesome!
by Rebecca (Alabama) | March 8, 2013
My favorite significant role in the history of sign language has to be my ancestor Helen Keller. She comes from my dad’s side of my family tree. It wasn’t easy finding out but when I did it was amazing how much I had found out about her and how much she had impacted so many people’s lives even though I may not be deaf or blind or whatever you don’t have to be to know sign language or braille.
For three years in middle school I had anyone out of thousands of famous people and still I chose her. Something about her just kept leading me on wanting to learn more and more but at this time what I didn’t know is I was related to her.
I think that sign language is in fact very important. In fact I use it in school all the time. Sure kids don’t know what I’m saying but the very few people that actually do makes it all that much more wild.
My Favorite Person from Deaf History
by Ruth Grant (Mobile, Alabama) | April 19, 2013
Without a doubt, Helen Keller is my absolute favorite person from Deaf History. My third grade teacher read the story of Keller to us and showed us the alphabet in sign language. I was fascinated by the language and have continued learning about the culture and the language.
I saw the movie starring Patty Duke and was moved by the obstacles Anne Sullivan faced trying to teach a child who had no way to communicate with the world around her. Being deaf and blind made the task even harder. But Anne persevered and eventually helped Helen to associate the shapes of the letters in her hand with the item it represented. She stared with words like “water” and “doll”.
What earns my respect for Keller is that she didn’t allow her challenges to keep her from exploring the world around her and achieving what is deemed difficult even for people without challenges. Helen graduated from Radcliffe and became the first deaf blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. She would meet 12 presidents and wrote 12 published books.
She was like a sponge when it came to soaking up every experience and opportunity. She truly experienced life in a way that very few sighted/hearing people ever dream of doing. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon B. Johnson on Spet. 14, 1964 and was elected to the National Women’s Hall of Fame at the New York World’s Fair in 1965.
She died on June 1, 1968.
*facts from Wikipedia.org
My inspiration: Helen Keller
by Myiesha J, Duff (Hueytown, AL) | March 8, 2013
I chose Helen Keller because she was the first person that I heard about that was deaf and blind.
There was a young lady in my church, when I was younger, that was deaf and I thought she was special. She could not hear or speak clearly but she was so smart and the way that she was able to communicate with her hands was fascinating to me.
Shortly after this initial experience, my class saw the Keller story one day at school. I may have been the only person in the class that was paying attention but I was so amazingly captivated by the entire storyline and her life.
After seeing the Keller story, I asked the girls from my church to teach me how to sign. They began a process that has continued for many years now almost 11 years.
Recently, I got married to a wonderful man and he has a sister that was tragically caught in a house fire and along with her ability to walk and move independently, she lost her sight.
My bachelors degree is in Elementary Education, so my heart’s desire is to teach, not just children, but people. The more I spend time with my sister in law, the more I want to do something to help her.
Learning sign language and finding out about the history of sign language and the foundations on the deaf culture have given me yet another inspiration….to help my sister in law create a milestone for people in similar situations and further her ability to communicate.
Helen Keller: A Present Just Waiting to be Unwrapped
by Kristen R. (Oregon) | April 9, 2010
Deaf History and Culture is something that not many people take the time to think about. However, very important lessons can be learned from these past mistakes and achievements. To me, Helen Keller is one of the most important people in Deaf History because she simply never gave up, and her story encourages others to not give up either.
When she was still a toddler, her parents lost hope. After taking her to see every specialist, every person that could even have a theory as to how to cure her or educate her, they believed that it simply couldn’t be done. She grew up as a wild child, with no manners and no form of communication, except for one “word” that she had made up; she would touch her cheek as a sign that she wanted her mother. Indeed, she lived a very spoiled, lonely life in the years before Annie Sullivan came to give her life.
When Helen was a child, it was as though she was locked in a room with no light and no one else, and could not get out. Annie Sullivan gave her the key to unlock the door, and it was only a matter of time before she opened it and came out into the light. Once Helen was “accessible”, she was eager for knowledge, devouring everything that came within reach, and imperiously demanding from Annie a name for everything.
This thirst for knowledge and acceptance never stopped. Although Helen wasn’t the first deaf-blind person to be educated, she was the first to graduate from college–an accomplishment she performed with high honors. In time, she proved to everyone that she was just like everyone else, and had potential inside.
Keller is a true role model, someone to be looked up to not just by the deaf-blind community, or even the disabled community in general, but by everyone. No matter what you have going against you, graduate from life with high honors.
The Strength To Rise Above Disabilities
by Heather (Platteville, Colorado) | March 8, 2013
Helen Keller is my favorite famous deaf-blind person in history. She has so many gifts and strengths, they obviously outnumber her disabilities. Her gifts place a large shadow over all her disabilities. Despite her background, she found the honor, courage, strength, and wisdom to rise above her disabilities. However, I do not view her disabilities as disabilities, but as gifts. I view them as road bumps and opportunities to push the human spirit to grow and learn.
If we look at Keller’s life, she had challenges to overcome. However, without these challenges we would not know her as the wonderfully gifted woman we do today. She became blind and deaf as an infant only having seventeen months of hearing. Once she encountered a caring teacher, Anne Sullivan, she was able to begin her journey to rise to her full potential. All she required on her journey was support and a translator because of her impairment. We can learn from her story that with some encouragement, motivation, and an opportunity we all can do and learn all of our hearts desires. The human spirit is not limited by our abilities, disabilities, or the people around us. The human spirit is only limited by not having dreams and the courage to follow our hearts.
A Greater Sense of Life
by Thomas Forlano (Denver, Colorado) | March 31, 2013
Several people come to mind when considering who has most impacted me from the Deaf community and history. Evelyn Glennie, for example, has contributed her rich understanding of sound and listening. And I cannot forget Marlee Matlin’s character showing what the ocean waves sound like in Children of a Lesser God, attesting to the idea that there is more to listening than hearing.
Helen Keller, however, has had the most influence on me. I first read Story of My Life in 2006. What strikes me from Keller’s narrative is her total engagement with the world- its natural beauty and its humanity. She reached a level of intimacy and knowledge about the world that not only reflected her undying passion for learning, but also her spiritual connection to life. In listening to her describe nature, for example, I hear her ability to “see” and “hear” so much more than the average person.
In a sense, Keller was more “abled” than many other people of her time (and ours) due both to her tenacious intellectual effort and her deficits, which caused her to develop a highly acute sensitivity. I am not blind, nor deaf. I strive, however, to reach the quality of experience- so rich and engaged- that Keller seems to have had.
by Abby Plump (Haubstadt, Indiana) | March 8, 2013
There are many great people in deaf history, ones that earned rights, encouraged signed language, started organizations, but what would that all mean if nobody ever put it to good use and showed what a deaf person can really do? That’s why I chose Helen Keller.
Although she wasn’t the first deaf-blind person to be educated, she is certainly honored as so. When she was very small, she was taught by Anne Sullivan, who taught her sign language and fingerspelling through pressing it into Helen’s hands. Anne also taught her that she could take care of herself and do things by herself. Anne was by far her greatest teacher.
Helen was a great student, quick to learn and eager, and even though she was a deaf-blind, she passed through school with honors. As if this wasn’t enough, she even passed college with the title of first deaf-blind person to graduate college, and as if that still wasn’t enough, she did it with honors. As a deaf-blind person, she did more than most hearing people ever are able to do. She surpassed many records with her great academic feats. We can only imagine what her potential could have been if she could hear and see!
That’s why Keller is the greatest deaf person in history. Because of her accomplishments even with two great obstacles in her way. As a deaf-blind, she did more than most people have ever done or will ever do, and that cannot be beat.
by Leah R. | June 10, 2017
My favorite person who had an impact on deaf history and ASL is Helen Keller. Not only was she deaf, but she was blind as well. She was born on June 27, 1880 in Alabama. After being struck with a severe disease in 1882, she was left blind and deaf. Martha Washington, daughter of the family chef, began finding ways to communicate with Helen. They developed over 60 signs before Helen was 7 years old. During this time, Helen would throw tantrums, kick and scream when she was mad, and the family found it to be getting out of control. They met with Alexander Graham Bell and he referred the family to educator, Anne Sullivan. Anne started the teaching process by introducing Helen to finger spelling. The very first word she spelled was doll, and then gifted her with a doll that she had brought for her. At first Helen was not interested in the things Anne wanted her to learn, but after a while she wasn’t as defiant. Even after she started learning, Helen couldn’t make connections between the words spelled on her hand and the real life objects. Anne kept hard at work. They moved to a small cottage so that Helen could focus on learning different words. By the end of the night, she had learned 30 new words. Helen later attended college and learned many new forms of communication to make it easier for other people to understand her. With help from Anne, Helen wrote a book called “The Story of My Life”. Following the death of her teacher Anne, Helen began finding ways that she could help and influence the lives of others. She was gifted many rewards and honors. Keller died on June 1, 1986 in her sleep. I chose to research Helen for this assignment because I had heard a lot about her story and found it really inspiring. I can’t imagine not being able to hear or see both at the same time. I understand better now why she would get so frustrated, because it would be extremely difficult to learn without 2 of your senses. I’m sure her and her family were very thankful, and lucky, to have been able to find someone like Anne who would be able to teach Helen all that she needed to know.
by Cameron Peloquin | May 2, 2017
Helen Keller was a famous woman who lived from the late 19th century to the 20th century. She is known for her experiences in life when being blind and deaf. She was born on June 27th, 1880, in a town called Tuscumbia, Alabama. Her story started when she suffered an unidentified illness that left her permanently blind and deaf at only 19 months of age. She was scared, confused, and had no idea what was happening around her. She would easily burst into temper tantrums. Because of her disabilities, her mother sought desperately for someone to help her out. Luckily, she found a woman who could. Her name was Anne Sullivan. Sullivan was 20 and Helen was 6 when they first met. Sullivan started by teaching Helen the manual alphabet. However, when it came to spelling full words on Helen’s hand, she’d become easily frustrated. One day, in Cape Cod, when Sullivan pumped water on Helen’s hand and spelled the word “water” onto the other, Helen suddenly understood something. She learned how the feeling and the spelling of water corresponded. Sullivan continued to teach her by fingerspelling on her hand the names of everything she touched. Helen would then do the same on Sullivan’s hand. Sullivan would put Helen’s hands onto her head so she would feel her nodding up and down for every word she spelled correctly. She learned 30 words, including “doll”, “tree”, “mother”, “father”, “sister”, and “teacher”. The more Helen learned, the easier it was for her to understand anything around her. Everywhere Sullivan went, Helen would go with her. Helen learned how to read, write, talk, and use the typewriter. She became the first blind and deaf student to attend and graduate from Radcliffe College. She wrote a dozen books, including her first autobiography, The Story of My Life. She was able to continue her life on her own after Sullivan died. During her world travels, Helen made friends with people who were famous like herself, including Mark Twain, Eleanor Roosevelt, Alexander Graham Bell, and more than 10 U.S. Presidents. She began to raise money for other people with disabilities. Even though she died peacefully on June 1st, 1968 in Easton, Connecticut, Keller will always be remembered for who she was.
by Mia Hackett | October 11, 2016
I personally think that Helen Keller was pretty amazing. On top of being deaf she was blind, yet she was still able to impact the many generations following her, that is incredible!
I’m taking an Acting Intensive class; a part of the class is learning how to use your five senses to the best of our abilities. Just going through that course as well as this one is really getting me to think about what is would be like to not hear. One of my favorite things to do in my free time is listening to music. Music for me holds such importance that I cannot even being to think what it would be like to now be able to hear it. What a way to live!
The fact that Helen was able to find joy in life even though she was unable to take part in the many beautiful things that we as humans can do, I find that absolutely amazing. And it’s encouraging really, she had no hearing, no sight, and she found a way to be happy. She lived her life to the fullest and she enjoyed every minute.
We as humans can be so selfish at times. We go about complaining, we actually have the gall to talk about just how sad and depressing our lives are. What would it be like if we couldn’t see color? If we couldn’t hear the sound of someone saying “I love you.” We need to all take a step back and see just how blessed we truly are. That is why Keller is my favorite deaf person apart of history.
by Addy (Pennsyvania) | March 23, 2016
My favorite is Helen Keller. She seems so real, not like a far away historical person. I’ve read books about, and she sounds normal. I would go crazy if I couldn’t hear nor see and couldn’t understand people that long.
I have a hole in my ear drum, and recently I felt as if my hearing was starting to decline. Hey, I’m only eleven and this crazy hearing journey started right before kindergarden. I had a surgery to get tubes in my ears, and have my adiniodes and tonsils removed. When the right tube came out, it left a hole in my ear drum. My left ear was fine, but my right ear now had hearing loss. Before first grade, I had another surgery. This time, they took carlige from my right ear to make a “patch” over my hole. There is only a small scar there today. In Augest 2015, I needed another surgery to replace the patch. They took more cartilage from my left ear, but messed up. I have a small bit of my left outer ear missing. I feel lately it’s getting harder to hear, but there’s nothing I can do.
by Lynn (Vernon, B.C. Canada) | February 3, 2016
Actually I have two favourites!! Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan! When I think of one, I automatically think of the other. Helen’s successful history was also Anne’s success! Having been both deaf and blind, I find the technique used to teach Helen to sign, write and speak, very interesting. A lot of patience and perseverance was needed for both of them. By signing letters into the palm of one hand while Helen touched an item with the other hand, Anne was able to teach Helen to relate the two. To teach Helen how to speak, Anne would hold Helen’s hand to her throat while she made the alphabet sounds. Such dedication!!! It would have been impossible to not develop a close friendship between the two of them, they were so intertwined, and Helen would have been so dependent on Anne. At least in the beginning!
With such a challenge ahead of her, Helen was determined to succeed in life. Wanting to go to college, she attended Cambridge School in 1898 to prepare herself. She entered Radcliffe College in the fall of 1900 and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1904. But while still a student at Radcliffe, Helen began writing and over time became the author of many books, including her autobiography which was translated in 50 different languages. Throughout Helen’s life she was very active in politics and spoke up for the welfare of blind people, both in her country and in other countries. She made several public appearances and won many awards!
Truly a remarkable woman, Senator Lister Hill gave this eulogy: “She will live on, one of the few, the immortal names not born to die.” He goes on to say ” the woman who showed the world there are no boundaries to courage and faith!”
by Andrea (Georgia) | July 20, 2015
Helen Keller is my favorite historical figure. This is because she tried her hardest even though she had tough obstacles. She was able to learn without being able to see or hear. She also had to find a new way to learn that only involved three out if five of her senses. How did she communicate? How did she learn? I do not know, but I do know it was hard. With sign language you have to be able to see yourself and the person your talking to, so she didn’t have the option to speak sign language. Another thing is that you kind of need to be able to hear yourself when you talk or when your learning to talk, so she could not talk either. I have no idea how she communicated, or if she communicated at all. I can not imagine how hard that was. I guess what I wrote does not have much to do with the overall topic, but she was part of the history and should be remembered. I respect Keller and she inspires me to try harder. I hope she inspires other people as well. Especially if they have disabilities no matter what they are. And that is why Keller is my favorite historical figure.
by Barbara Baker | February 4, 2015
My favorite person is Helen Keller and she was independent and she is the most famous deaf and blind person. She went to college and she was the first one to graduate from college and she graduated with honors. She bet her disability. She has taken the credit before Laura Bridgman. She was almost married. Helen cared for all people who were like her and she is on the state quarter. A quote from Keller: “The few own the many because they possess the means of livelihood of all … The country is governed for the richest, for the corporations, the bankers, the land speculators, and for the exploiters of labor. The majority of mankind are working people. So long as their fair demands the ownership and control of their livelihoods are set at naught, we can have neither men’s rights nor women’s rights. The majority of mankind is ground down by industrial oppression in order that the small remnant may live in ease.” – Helen Keller (Wikipedia). Helen wrote a total of 12 published books and several articles. She was inducted into the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame in 1971. A member of the Socialist Party of America and the Industrial Workers of the World, she campaigned for women’s suffrage, labor rights, socialism, and other similar causes.
by Kiley Jensen (Ferron, Utah) | January 9, 2015
Imagine finally breaking down a wall in your life that allowed you to see that you weren’t nearly as limited as you had once thought. Imagine the new possibilities that lie before you, and imagine showing that to numerous people who would follow, inspiring them to be something greater. To me that’s what Helen Keller did. She pushed past the barriers that others created for her and became a highly respected figure.
She has given hope to countless others, whether or not they’re deaf or blind. Her persistence seems to say don’t be defined by what others perceive you to be. Why put limits on ourselves because that’s what others expect? Just because those around you don’t think you can be great doesn’t make it truth. Look at all those she’s inspired to keep going, when all the odds seemed to be stacked against you to keep pushing on.
She’s shown that the things that have the possibilities of being our greatest weaknesses, which drag us down, can in fact be our greatest strengths, which give us the wings to soar beyond even our own expectations.
So here remains the question, what barriers are you allowing to remain, whether created by you or others, that are keeping you from your true potential?
by Olivia (Dublin, Georgia) | November 7, 2014
When I first became interested in sign language I decided to read Helen Keller’s biography, The Story Of My Life. I had heard of her, but I didn’t really know anything about her, other than her name and the fact that she was deaf and blind. When I finished reading I was completely amazed. It was so awesome to read about her perceptions of the world. It was especially touching when Helen wrote about the blind children that she visited with Anne, those parts were my favorites. Her story is so inspirational and beautiful. After reading it I realized that I wanted to learn sign language. Someday I hope to either teach deaf children or become an interpreter. Your website has helped me a lot, and I appreciate all of the effort and work that you all put into it. I’m learning so much and I’m really enjoying the lessons.
by Anonymous (Fond du Lac, Wisconsin) | September 16, 2014
All have a place earned in History. And to choose ONE is very difficult. I choose Helen Keller. Not only for the fact that she was blind and deaf. But, because she accomplished so much. She brought a lot of attention to the plight of the deaf community.
Because of her fame, the hearing took notice. They started to realize that Deaf does not mean dumb. Many people started to see Deaf people as “normal”. And so many hearing people, me included, started to learn sign language. Keller not only brought attention to the “problems” here in America but, all over the world. Deaf can learn and are not dumb like they had been labeled for centuries.
I am very glad to have been inspired at an early age to learn such a beautiful language. I just wish I would have learned more than the alphabet and a few simple signs then. I am learning much more now. And am teaching sign language to my young nieces and nephews, family and friends. I am watching people of all ages, 15 – 72, come to class to learn. Each have their own reasons for learning. They range from just wanting to learn, to learning because a family member or friend is Deaf or hard of hearing. Some want to use in their jobs. But, no matter the reason, I am thankful that more and more people are wanting and willing to learn.
by Haylee (Minnesota) | March 7, 2014
Helen Keller is so inspirational. With being blind and deaf she managed to go to school and go to college and graduated with honors. That’s amazing to me.
Hard work really pays off and it shows. She knew she could do it and she worked hard to get there. That makes me believe that I can do the same. I can make it through school and maybe even go to college. I just have to work hard and it will pay off. Knowing what she did is such an inspiration. It’s very encouraging. I believe in myself because of her because I know if she can do that I surely can.
She also wrote books. It’s unbelievable. I would have thought that would be impossible but that has really opened my eyes. Having people like that who never give up is a great environment to be in. When I’m with people who never give up it makes me never want to give up. It’s admirable. I believe more people should be like her. If someone tells you you can’t, prove them wrong! Show them you can. You have the power to choose how to live your life. Are you going to just sit there and let it fly by thinking you can’t do anything or are you going to make something of your self and do the impossible!
by Mdu (Mississauga) | January 4, 2014
She graduated from college with honors – I think that says more than anything that Helen Keller is the biggest inspiration for deaf people. She proved that anything a non deaf person can do, a deaf person can do.
Heather Whitestone also did that by winning the Miss America pageant, however I believe that it is possible that Keller inspired her and showed her that she could do anything a non deaf person can.
It is hard enough for people that are hearing to go to college and complete it; there is a high percentage of college dropouts in the USA, so when a deaf woman graduated, it must have inspired every deaf person that heard about it.
Also the fact that it was a WOMAN who was not only deaf, but graduated with honors must have made a big statement back then because women’s rights were not as significant as they are today.
Candace Schultz/Helen Keller
by Amanda (Montrose, Colorado) | March 8, 2013
I first heard of Helen Keller in the third grade, and was just amazed by her story. I couldn’t imagine anyone going through life not only blind but deaf too.
The following summer, I met my cousin, Candace, from California for the first time. I had never been told she was deaf, and at first had no idea what I was going to talk to her about. It was over a card game of goldfish, that I brought up Keller, and I was amazed by how much she accomplished. Well, my cousin just smiled and started talking so loud and so fast I had a hard time keeping up.
“There are worse things than being deaf,” Candace told me. “Yeah, it makes it a little harder to communicate with some people, and you have to be a little more careful around stores and stuff, but I’m the same as you.”
The summer went by quickly, but I soon learned that Candace didn’t have a disability, I did. She could read people better, was better at remembering little details, and just better at communicating.
She helped me look at people a little differently…instead of sympathy or pity, I’m now curious to hear about all the things they can do better–just like Keller, who adapted and accomplished so much. And Ms. Keller also helped me gain insight to my cousin’s world.
by Andrea Hawkins (North Carolina) | March 8, 2013
I remember watching The Miracle Worker with my mother when I was a child and it is still one of my favorite movies to this day. Helen Keller changed a lot for persons who were deaf especially at that time in society. To become the first deaf and blind person to graduate from college was a huge accomplishment especially with limited technology.
Anne Sullivan was a fantastic teacher, she taught Helen everything and what a struggle that was. In the movie Helen is very stubborn, I suppose it was those strong minded efforts that’s made Helen such a great figure. To think she learned how to talk by feeling the vibrations through her teacher’s throat–what a marvel. It helps you to appreciate the language more when you understand the struggle.
Over the years history has taught us the struggles of Slavery and the endurance African Americans had to go through. History has taught of the struggle and fight Indians had and even the injustice Mexican and Hispanic Cultures had to face. Yet we were not taught the cruelty that Deaf and Blind persons struggled with everyday. Imagine being a grown adult and not being able to marry, buy land or being labeled as a Non-person in the law of the very land you were born. How sad that must have been. So when a young woman proves to the world that not only can you live day to day but you CAN be educated and respected I am sure as we see today the world will listen.
by Patty (Florida) | March 8, 2013
I truly respect Helen Keller. She was a woman who went after what she wanted, she did not let her handicap slow her down or stop her. By Helen going out and getting the education she wanted she showed many people that it could be done and she gave them the insight on how to go about doing it.
She also allowed parents to see that their children could prosper and have a full and great life no matter what obstacle stood in their way. She gave hope and strength to many families. She saw a challenge in her life and she found a way to overcome it.
A lot of progress has been made in the deaf community and it all started with the small steps of several people. I believe that Keller was one of those people. She showed the world what she could achieve when some thought she would not be able to accomplish anything because she was deaf and blind. She showed people how to gain their dreams and overcome their challenges.
She opened the door to the future for vast improvements in the deaf community and for the deaf themselves. I believe that Keller helped to change the world as many people know it.
by Alicia Montgomery (Marysville, California) | March 8, 2013
The first time I heard about Helen Keller was in 1968, the year she died, I was 10 years old. I was immediately intrigued by what I was hearing about her on TV. My curiosity got the best of me and I had to go to the library and check out a book about her. When the movie about her came out I watched it many times.
Her journey through a life of darkness and silence was inspiring. She had her familiar surroundings and immediate family helped her to know what was going on around her until the stranger, Ann Sullivan, entered her life to teach her unfamiliar things and take her away from her surroundings and routines. I love that once Helen began to understand, she was like a sponge and soaked up everything she could about signing, speaking, reading and writing in Braille, she graduated college, with honors, and became an author and speaker. She was a strong, independent woman who didn’t let her impairments get in the way.
Now I have a 4 year old grandson, Gabriel, who is autistic and learning sign language. Even though Gabe is hearing he is very similar to Keller in her younger years because he can’t speak and is only familiar with immediate family and doesn’t adapt well to change. My admiration for Keller and my love for my grandson has inspired me to learn sign language and about the deaf culture.
by Hannah (New Hampshire) | March 8, 2013
My favorite deaf person has definitely got to be Helen Keller. She was not only deaf, she was also blind, too, and was amazingly able to learn how to read people’s lips by feeling them move. She was also able to learn to talk by feeling the vibrations that came from a person’s throat and repeating them herself.
That a deaf and blind woman, who when she was a little girl would have so much trouble communicating, would grow into a woman who learned to read lips, talk, and communicate with other people is a cool thing to know. As I learned about her, I discovered that as she was growing up, she had quite a few goals such as learning to talk, entering college, etc.
So, not only did Keller learn many things that were thought to be impossible (such as talking, etc.), but by studying very hard, she actually got to enter college and ended up graduating. Back in Keller’s time, many people thought that blind and deaf people could not be educated. Well, Keller successfully proved that all the people who thought this, were incorrect. Keller, although she was both deaf and blind, led a happy, productive life.
by Mitch Saffle (Burlingame, Kansas) | March 8, 2013
Helen Keller has to be my favorite Deaf person. She accomplished so much for being Deaf… and blind! I’m learning sign right now and I think that it’s pretty hard. But I can’t even imagine the struggles she had to go through, I mean I’m hearing and I can see. But she pulled through and learned how to understand the world around her.
She’s my inspiration for learning sign. I feel that if she would have not gotten the fame that she has now, I honestly don’t think that I could make it through ALL these lessons.
I also read and heard that she went to college and graduated! Wow that’s pretty amazing don’t you think? I mean I’m only in 8th grade and I still find it hard understanding Pre-Algebra assignments. But that’s not the point, Keller was a phenomenal person from Deaf history, I think anyway.
I do want to give credit to Laura Bridgmen. She, like Helen, accomplished a lot and she was the first deaf-blind person to learn sign. I would also like to think of all the famous Deaf out there and the people who started this great and beautiful language. L’Epee and Gallaudet and all the current, present stars that spread Deaf awareness.
by Lindsey Vasquez (California) | December 8, 2012
Helen Keller is the reason why I decided to learn sign language. In sixth grade we were watching a video about Keller and when I saw her sign, I was totally amazed that people could communicate with their hands and bodies. That’s when I decided that I wanted to learn how to do that too.
It’s incredible that she went through her entire life not being able to see or hear the world around her. But that did not stop her from pushing through and succeeding in life and especially school, since she graduated from college with honors.
Before I read this, I never knew that she learned to speak by feeling Anne Sullivan’s throat. That is so incredible! Anne Sullivan should receive credit as well since she was the woman who taught Helen how to sign and speak. She stayed by Helen’s side throughout her hardships and didn’t give up on her. She is a strong woman! Actually both of them were. Anyway, back to Helen.
I can just imagine how much of an inspiration she was for others as she gave speeches to all those people. I would have felt so insecure thinking about what others think of me but she was brave enough to show herself to the world. This is why Keller is my favorite person from Deaf history. But we mustn’t forget about all of the other magnificent people who supported sign language and made it come alive and known to the whole world! Thank you for reading.
by Silver Night | December 8, 2012
I would have to say that Helen Keller is my favorite person in deaf history, probably because I know the most about her. She was an incredible woman who made a gigantic impact on many people. She lectured and fought for rights for the deaf and blind. She helped prove that deaf-blind people can do the same things that hearing and seeing people can by graduating from college with honors, much the same way Heather Whitestone helped prove that deaf people can do anything hearing people can by winning the Miss America title. She learned to read lips by putting her fingers on someone’s mouth while they spoke. She learned to speak. She even learned to write. And she inspired hundreds of people. That is why Keller is my favorite historical deaf person.
What are we learning?
by Coco (Texas) | April 1, 2010
In our stream-line schools today in America we virtually do not learn anything of deaf history. We learn of wars and slavery and discoveries, but not about deaf people. As a hearing person, I think the only deaf person I had ever heard of in school was Helen Keller. Her story was fascinating to me. But now I know that the deaf culture has a much more rich and fascinating history.
Along with Helen Keller, I think that Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet will have to be my pick for favorite person in deaf history. He was open-minded enough to recognize the intelligence in a child who could not hear or speak. He went so far as to travel to another country to learn how to best educate the deaf. Establishing the first free public school for the deaf, along with Laurent Clerc, is an amazing thing!
He helped shape ASL as it is today by bringing signs from England and merging them with signs that deaf people were already using in their homes. His sons carried on his name and went on to establish the first college for the deaf, which is now the prestigious Gallaudet University. It is always an amazing thing to be an example to your children and they too carry on to do great things.
I totally agree with your comment about what we are learning. I don’t understand why school don’t had deaf culture and history to there history classes or have it as an optionally class to sign up for. Schools would probably be surprised how many students would find the classes interesting.
Favorite Deaf Person
by Triniti (Washington) | March 23, 2016
Helen Keller is my personal favorite deaf person. I was completely astounded when I heard her story. As a second or third grader, I simply couldn’t imagine not being able to see or hear. She is to this day my idol, and one of the many reasons that I have continued to learn sign language, even after my mom stopped teaching me. She reached her goals despite her “disabilities”, and never let anything get in her way. She stopped at nothing to ensure that she would make an impact on the world. She ended up being a public “speaker”, which makes her even more admirable. She has taught me to follow my dreams no matter what anyone says or thinks of you. She spread the message that no matter who you are, where you came from, or how you grew up, you can make a difference and be somebody important. She gives hope to the people that don’t have any, even when she is blind and deaf, which would have made almost anyone else give up on all hope. But not Helen Keller, She spent her days learning as well as teaching. She had to learn to read and write a difficult way, but she took the time out to tell everyone that it doesn’t matter if you have an impairment. Just set your mind to a goal, and you can do anything. This is why Helen Keller is my favorite deaf person.
I can’t choose just one!
by Vickie (La Verkin, Utah) | December 15, 2015
Is it possible to have more than one favorite in deaf history? I am in awe of the people throughout history (and even today) who gave their all to make a difference in someone else’s life. There are those who became interested in helping their own children and ended up helping others. I admire those who started schools. How wonderful it must have been for deaf children to come to a place where they felt like they belonged!
I’ve always been fascinated by the story of Helen Keller. I can’t comprehend living in a world where I could neither hear nor see. She was the first deaf-blind person to graduate from college- and to graduate with honors! Anne Sullivan is a true hero to me. She was also one who dedicated her life to make another person’s life better.
I am looking forward to reading and learning more about Laura Bridgman. I hadn’t heard of her.
One of my favorite people today is Rachel Coleman. After discovering that her daughter was deaf, she and her sister made videos to help their family and friends communicate with Leah. These videos were the beginning of Signing Time. Signing Time is a great way to learn sign language- starting with very young children.
So you see why I cant choose just one.
Hmm…who to pick?
by Olivia (USA) | March 8, 2013
This is a difficult choice, who is MY favorite. They are all amazing people, who have done so much to help the deaf and learn about the deaf, and create sign language, and make sign language what it is today. Not to mention, help us hearing ones, learn of the deaf and understand them, and their challenges.
But since I can only pick one, I would have to go with the amazing Helen Keller. Ever since I was very young, I was told about her. She is a true inspiration to us all, no matter hearing, or whatever challenge we face.
She, along with Heather Whitestone, and William “dummy” Hoy, has proved that no matter who you are, “almost” anything is possible–with much hard work!
Showing that a deaf and blind girl can communicate, even through the challenges–and I can only imagine how many people said it wouldn’t happen… to prove them wrong, and show it can be done–is amazing! And it makes me really anticipate what ideas people will come up with to improve communications for the deaf in the future!
And on one last encouraging note… I would just like to mention, in Isaiah 35:5 it says “At that time the eyes of the blind ones will be opened, and THE VERY EARS OF THE DEAF ONES WILL BE UNSTOPPED.” I personally will love to see Helen be resurrected, and standing there… amazed, being able to open her eyes and see! And realizing, in amazement and shock… she can also hear!
The People from Deaf History
by Melissa Gschwend (Benson, AZ USA) | April 23, 2010
I can’t say for sure that I have a favorite person from Deaf History. So many people played such wonderful roles in the support and progress of the Deaf.
I remember well the Deaf lady that won the Miss America Pageant. I have watched the Helen Keller movie and read the book so many times and each time I find myself so caught up in the strength of the teacher and how amazing it was to see the progress that she made.
I know nothing of the others that played any role in Deaf History and did not know that oral education was attempted on the Deaf people, I am glad that it failed. ASL is an amazing language to me and I am in awe every time I see a Deaf person signing.
So if I were to pick a favorite it would have to be Helen Keller because of the struggle she had with communicating and each step that was taken to teach her and just to see her improve in the slightest way.
I was told at the age of 10 that I would be deaf by the time I became and adult, so I took a summer school class and learned ASL. I was able to sign the song “You light up my life” but used ASL very little over the years and fought with being able to read when being spoken to. Now at age 41 I am not deaf although I do have my hearing issues, I still know the basics in ASL and can still sign some of the song.
Now I would really like to be able to communicate in ASL especially in being able to know what someone is saying. I realize this essay is in part personal, but you did want my thoughts. Thank You.