“Once I knew only darkness and stillness. . . . My life was without past or future. . . . But a little word from the fingers of another fell into my hand that clutched at emptiness, and my heart leaped to the rapture of living.” ~Helen Keller (1880-1968)
Born in Tuscumbia, AL, on June 27, 1880, Helen Keller was only 19 months old when an unknown (possibly scarlet fever) severe illness left her both completely blind and deaf. Helen’s parents still believed that Helen could be happy, and after visiting Alexander Graham Bell at age six, she met with the teacher, Anne Sullivan, who would stay with Helen until she died in 1936.
Anne Sullivan worked hard with Helen, fighting back at the child’s terrible attitude. She never gave up on Helen, writing words in Helen’s palm and forming symbols used in sign language. The teaching continued with no effect, until one day while Anne was sitting with Helen at a water spout and forming the word ‘water’ into her hand over and over again, something in her mind clicked. She finally understood the concept of language, that all these ‘games’ that Anne had been playing with her weren’t games at all, but meant something. After this, Helen would learn all the words she could, eager to know more. The quote above tells about how she felt when she figured out that she could communicate with other people.
Later, Helen learned Braille, a system of writing using raised dots that you feel with your fingertip. She also learned manual alphabet, which is using your fingers to make different letters of the alphabet. Helen was even able to learn to speak by putting her fingers on her teacher’s throat and lips, feeling the vibrations and movements.
At the age of 20, Helen was accepted into Radcliffe College and graduated in 1904 with honors. Helen helped raise more money than anyone else as well as awareness for the American Foundation for the Blind. She also received many awards and wrote 12 books, including: The Story of My Life published in 1903; Optimism (1903); The World I Live In (1908); Out of the Dark(1913); Midstream: My Later Life (1929); Journal (1938); and Let Us Have Faith (1940).
All of these things, and taking into consideration that Helen was blind and deaf, as well as the time period, show how Helen overcame adversity.
Central Middle School sixth grader Kayley Cooke likes to draw and read when she’s not writing articles for MY Say.