Helen Keller

The First Lady of Courage

One of the most influential and inspiration humanitarians. She was a champion for the disabled, an enduring symbol of courage and triumph over adversity.

American, Helen Adams Keller, was an educator, author, and political activist, the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts Degree. She overcame the adversity of being blind and deaf to become a leading humanitarians. She co-founded the American Civil Liberties Union.

This lady of courage, overcame incredible odds and her legacy is of faith, courage, endurance and determination. She taught that – ’impossible is nothing.’ In 1964, Helen Keller was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

On 1 June 1968, Helen Keller aged 87, died at Easton, Connecticut, United States. She was one of the most powerful symbols of triumph over adversity, which lead, Winston Churchill to call her, “The greatest woman of our age”.

Name:   Helen  Keller
Born:   27 June 1880
Star Sign: Cancer
Died:   1 June 1968
Birthplace: Tuscumbia
Country: Alabama (AL) United States
DetailsOther Names
Arthur H. Keller
Kate Adams

Helen Adams Keller, was born in Tuscumbia, Alabama, on June 27, 1880, to Kate Adams Keller and Colonel Arthur Keller, a retired Confederate Army captain and editor of the local newspaper. Helen was born a healthy child but at 19 months old, she was afflicted by an unknown illness, which left her both deaf and blind.

Although, Helen was quite intelligent, she frequently had outbursts and tantrums. Concerned, Helen's mother contacted the Perkins School for the Blind, in Boston, and 20-year-old Anne Sullivan, who also had partial vision was employed as Helen's private tutor.

Arrival of her teacher
In 1887, Anne Sullivan a 20-year-old graduate of the Perkins School for the Blind met 7-year-old, Helen. Sullivan realized that Helen was extremely intelligent, but unruly and spoiled, who tyrannized the household with her temper tantrums.and her frustration of being unable to communicate. Sullivan, persevered through the tempestuous first weeks of the relationship. Finally, Sullivan demanded that she and Keller be isolated from the rest of the family for a time. She requested that Helen and herself moved into a small cottage on the property.

Through much patience, firmness and consistency, Sullivan finally won Helen's heart and trust. The biggest breakthrough was when Helen felt water from a water pump outside as Sullivan fingerspells - “W-A-T-E-R” into her hand. It was then that Helen realized that objects have names and learning the word, 'water,' was an exciting milestone for her.

Once Helen realized the true meanings of words, and some sign language, her thirst for knowledge accelerated. In 1890, Keller began speech classes at the Horace Mann School for the Deaf in Boston. From 1894 to 1896, she attended the Wright-Humason School for the Deaf in New York City. There she worked on improving her communication skills and studied regular academic subjects. Keller became determined to attend college

In 1896, Keller attended the Cambridge School for Young Ladies, a preparatory school for women. As her story became known to the general public, Keller began to meet famous and influential people. One of them was the writer,Mark Twain, who was very impressed with her and became her friend.

Bachelor of Arts degree
Mark Twain's friend Henry H. Rogers, was so impressed with Helen, that he agreed to pay her fees at Radcliffe College. At the College, Helen was accompanied by Sullivan, who sat by her side to interpret lectures and texts. Keller had mastered several methods of communication, including touch-lip reading, Braille, speech, typing and finger-spelling.

In 1903, Keller's book, 'The Story of My Life' was published. In 1904, at the age of 24, Helen Keller, graduated with the highest honor from Radcliffe, and became the first deaf blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. Keller also purchased a home in Wrentham, Massachusetts. In May 1905, Sullivan married John Macy, and Sullivan continued to be Keller's guide and mentor.

Constant Companions
In 1906, Keller was appointed to the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind. In 1913, Keller and Sullivan begin their career on the lecture circuit, which was to last more than 50 years. Helen wrote and published 'Out of the Dark,' a collection of socialist writings.

In 1914, John Macy and Sullivan separated. Sullivan's health started failing, so Polly Thomson was hired as a helper, but later progressed to secretary, and Keller's constant companion. Later Polly was on vacation and Peter Fagan came as a temporary replacement. Keller and Fagan fell in love and planned to elope, but Helen's family was against it.

HKI founded and On the Vaudeville Circuit
In 1915, Helen Keller International (HKI) was founded. Two years later, Keller moved her household to Forest Hills on Long Island in New York. The following year, Braille was established in the U.S. for the blind, due in part to the advocacy of Helen Keller. That same year, Helen’s mother, Kate died.

In 1919, Keller and Sullivan began a successful five-year career on the vaudeville circuit. Keller, became the spokesperson for the American Foundation for the Blind. She challenged the Lions Club International to become “Knights of the Blind.” The Lions continued their commitment to the prevention of blindness, aiding the visually impaired across the globe.

World War II and World Tours
Sadly, in 1936, Anne Sullivan Macy died. Keller move to Connecticut with Polly Thomson, and traveled worldwide raising funds for the blind. But in 1957, Thomson had a stroke and Winnie Corbally, a nurse was hired to care for Thomson, but in 1960, Thomson died. Corbally, stayed on after Thomson's death and became Keller's companion for the rest of her life. In 1938, Keller’s published her Journal 1936-1937. Around this time, Keller met Eleanor Roosevelt, and they remained friends.

In 1939, Keller moved to Arcan Ridge, Connecticut, which was her home for the rest of her life. From 1939 and 1957, she visited 39 countries on five continents. She met with world leaders such as Winston Churchill, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Golda Meir. During War II, Keller visited and encouraged the wounded and blinded war veterans in military hospitals. She published 14 books and produced numerous articles. In 1948, she was sent to Japan as America's first Goodwill Ambassador by General Douglas MacArthur.

Recognition and Awards
Helen Keller was out-spoken on the needs and issues affecting her fellow deaf and deaf-blind comrades, but she was also a valiant supporter of women’s suffrage, civil rights, and the labor union movement, as well as other important causes.

Keller, won numerous honors and awards which included several honorary university degrees; the Lions Humanitarian Award; the French Legion of Honor; and election to the Women’s Hall of Fame. In 1952, she received the Gold Medal Award from The National Institute of Social Sciences for her service to humanity. She also won an Oscar for 'Helen Keller in Her Story,' a documentary about her life.

Recognition and Honours
In 1960, Keller met President John F. Kennedy at the White House. In fact, she had met all the presidents since Grover Cleveland. In 1961, she suffers her first stroke and retires from public life. In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson awarded Keller with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor.

Keller is one of twenty inductees into the Women’s Hall of Fame, tying with Eleanor Roosevelt for the most votes. In 1968, Helen Keller, passed away peacefully, just a few weeks before her 88th birthday at Arcan Ridge, in Connecticut.

Love and Family
Helen Adams Keller at 7 years old met Anne Sullivan who became her private tutor and a new world open up for Helen. She learned sign language, read and wrote in Braille, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree.

Keller fell in love with a young man, Peter Fagan but her family objected to the marriage. Helen Keller had many friends that supported her and her causes. Her biggest success was in persuading others that disability is not the end of the world.

Keller donated money to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)—a young and controversial civil rights organization that opposed lynching, job and housing discrimination against African Americans.

Keller and Mark Twain were great friends. Keller was 14, when they first met and remained friends until Twain death 16 years later. He admired her sense of humor and sharp intelligence.

She was the first person with deaf-blindness to earn a college degree and Bachelor of Arts degree.

She was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1953. Keller visited the Mideast in 1952 and met with local leaders to advocate for the rights of those who were blind or disabled

She was extremely political. She was a member of the Socialist Party; Founder of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), an outspoken advocate for the rights of women and a strong supporter of birth control.

She fell in love and almost eloped. In her late 30s, Keller fell in love with Peter Fagan, but her family objected to the marriage.

Helen Keller remains influential and respected even after her death. Her name appeared on Time magazine’s list of the 100 most important figures of the 20th century,

Keller and Anne Sullivan were friends of Alexander Graham Bell whose wife was deaf. The inventor founded schools for the deaf and was involved with teaching deaf children. He suggested to Keller's parents to enrolled her at the Perkins Institution for the Blind.

Helen Kellers image (with Braille) is on the Alabama state quarter.

She introduced the Akita Dog to the USA. In the 1930s, when Keller toured Japan she was given an Akita dog named Kamikaze-Go as a present When the dog died, Japan’s government gifted another Akita dog.

"The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart."

"Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence."

"Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light."

"Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow."

"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved."

"The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision."

"Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world straight in the eye."

"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much."

"Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties."

"Life is either a great adventure or nothing."


On June 1, 1968 Helen Keller, passed away at Arcan Ridge, a few weeks short of her 88th birthday. Her funeral was attended by 1200 mourners, and the choir of Perkins School for the Blind performed. She was laid to rest in St. Joseph’s Chapel, at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.,

Her ashes were interred there with those of Anne Sullivan and Polly Thomson. Senator Lister Hill eulogized Helen Keller as “One of the few persons not born to die.” She will always be known as,“The first lady of courage”.

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