Monday, January 14, 2008

Helen Keller - The Miracle Worker

Helen Keller

Helen Adams Keller

Deafblind American author, activist, and lecturer.
Born June 27, 1880(1880-06-27)
Tuscumbia, Alabama, USA
Died June 1, 1968 (aged 87)
Easton, Connecticut, USA

Helen Adams Keller (June 27, 1880June 1, 1968) was an American author, activist and lecturer. She was the first deafblind person to graduate from college. The story of how a remarkable teacher broke through the isolation the lack of language had imposed on the child, who blossomed as she learned to communicate, are staples of American folklore. What is less well known is how Keller's life developed after she completed her education: she became a radical campaigner for workers' rights and an advocate for many other progressive causes.

Early childhood and illness

Helen Keller, age 7
Helen Keller, age 7

Helen Keller was born at an estate called Ivy Green[1] in Tuscumbia, Alabama, on June 27, 1880, to Captain Arthur H. Keller, a former officer of the Confederate Army, and Kate Adams Keller, a cousin of Robert E. Lee. The Keller family originates from Germany, and at least one source claims her father was of Swiss descent.[2] She was not born blind and deaf; it was not until nineteen months of age that she came down with an illness described by doctors as "an acute congestion of the stomach and the brain," which could have possibly been scarlet fever or meningitis. The illness did not last for a particularly long time, but it left her deaf and blind. At that time her only communication partner was Martha Washington, the six-year-old daughter of the family cook, who was able to create a sign language with her; by age seven, she had over 60 home signs to communicate with her family.

In his doctoral dissertation, "Deaf-blind Children (psychological development in a process of education)" (1971, Moscow Defectology Institute), Soviet blind-deaf psychologist Meshcheryakov asserted that Washington's friendship and teaching was crucial for Keller's later developments. [3]

Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan
Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan

In 1886, her mother was inspired by an account in Charles Dickens's American Notes of the successful education of another deafblind child, Laura Bridgman, and traveled to a specialist doctor in Baltimore for advice. He put her in touch with Alexander Graham Bell, who was working with deaf children at the time. Bell advised the couple to contact the Perkins Institute for the Blind, the school where Bridgman had been educated, which was then located in South Boston. The school delegated teacher and former student Anne Sullivan, herself visually impaired and then only 20 years old, to become Keller's instructor. It was the beginning of a 49-year-long relationship, eventually evolving into governess and companion.

Sullivan got permission from Keller's father to isolate the girl from the rest of the family in a little house in their garden. Her first task was to instill discipline in the spoiled girl. Keller's big breakthrough in communication came one day when she realized that the motions her teacher was making on her palm, while running cool water over her hand, symbolized the idea of "water;" she then nearly exhausted Sullivan demanding the names of all the other familiar objects in her world (including her prized doll). In 1890, ten-year-old Helen Keller was introduced to the story of Ragnhild Kåta, a deafblind Norwegian girl who had learned to speak. Kåta's success inspired Keller to want to learn to speak as well. Sullivan taught her charge to speak using the Tadoma method of touching the lips and throat of others as they speak, combined with fingerspelling letters on the palm of the child's hand. Later Keller learned Braille, and used it to read not only English but also French, German, Greek, and Latin .

Formal education

In 1888, Keller attended the Perkins School for the Blind. In 1894, Keller and Sullivan moved to New York City to attend the Wright-Humason School for the Deaf and Horace Mann School for the Deaf. In 1896, they returned to Massachusetts and Helen entered The Cambridge School for Young Ladies before gaining admittance, in 1900, to Radcliffe College. Her admirer Mark Twain had introduced her to Standard Oil magnate Henry Huttleton Rogers, who, with his wife, paid for her education. In 1904, at the age of 24, Keller graduated from Radcliffe magna cum laude, becoming the first deafblind person to graduate from a college.


Anne Sullivan stayed as a companion to Helen Keller long after she taught her. Anne married John Macy in 1905, and her health started failing around 1914. Polly Thompson was hired to keep house. She was a young woman from Scotland who didn't have experience with deaf or blind people. She progressed to working as a secretary as well, and eventually became a constant companion to Helen.[6]

After Anne died in 1936, Helen and Polly moved to Connecticut. They travelled worldwide raising funding for the blind. Polly had a stroke in 1957 from which she never fully recovered, and died in 1960.[5]

Winnie Corbally was Helen's companion for the rest of her life.[5]

Miracle Worker - Final Scene (1962)

Posted by Mel Avila Alarilla
Brief Biography/Wikipedia/YouTube


Princess Heidi said...

Hi Dad,
I have a new post and its entitled Australian Hi-5. I hope you will visit my blog and enjoy the video of Australian Hi-5. Bye now. Here's a kiss for you. Mwaaaah. God bless. I love you dad.

Keshi said...

What a truly inspirational post!

btw u mite like to read my latest was inpsired by u :)


(¯`•._.•[Raaji]•._.•´¯) said...

hey Mel,
Nice and informative :)

Mel Avila Alarilla said...

Hi Keshi,
Thanks for your visit and for your very inspiring comments. Yes, I will be visiting your blog to read your new post. Thanks that I inspired you to make that post. As always, TO GOD BE THE GLORY. Thanks again for your visit. God bless and have a wonderful and great day always.

Mel Avila Alarilla said...

Hi Raaji,
The life of Helen Keller can really inspire us all a lot. She was able to overcome her tremendous handicap to be the great person that she was. Thanks for your visit. God bless and have a wonderful and peaceful day always.

Mel Avila Alarilla said...

Hi Princess Heidi,
Sorry, I forgot you honey. I will be moving over to your blog to read your new post. Study harder and make me be proud of you. I love you always.


texas_sweetie said...

Hello Powww Kuya Mel,
Wow ang sweet naman ng daughter mo! I didn't know may blog pala siya! I'll visit her blog pagkatapos tumambay dito. Kumusta ka na nga pala? Sorry at d na masyadong makadalaw sa'yo ha? I always meant to do it pero ewan ko ba kay daling mapagod sa paglalakad si ako,atsaka hirap na hirap na talaga ako sa tyan ko,ano ba kailan ba ito lalabas? hehehe...

Just want to let you know that I appreciate your inspirational thoughts and messages sa blog ko.Galing mo ini encourage mo ako palagi to be a good girl hehe!! Salamat po talaga KuyA Mel.

Magandang gabi sayo!

Miss Kurdapya said...

The world will never see another Helen Keller. Those visible people with disabilities of our generation do not stand alone and unique -- increasingly, they are powerful members of a powerful community, in control of those who support them rather than controlled by them.

*~*{Sameera}*~* said...

That was a beautiful compilation,so painstakingly done with links and facts.

She has been one of my all time favorite women.I loved her autobiography,The Story Of My Life,the abridged version of which I read as a child.Truly a woman to look up to,and so inspiring.Her spirit survives even long after she is gone.

Take care dear friend.God Bless You

Mel Avila Alarilla said...

Hi Byotipol,
You're always welcome in this blog my friend. And don't worry, I don't expect too much from you because I know how busy you are with your impending delivery. I reckon that by now, your stomach is already very heavy with Jadyn. I pray to God that He will give you a very smooth delivery, free from any pain or hassles. I also pray that He will provide for your needs in this delivery, especially your financial needs. Just promise me to immediately post your pictures with your baby as soon as you have already delivered. Until then, God bless you with all His blessings in His great store house of blessings. Have a nice and peaceful day in Texas always. MAGANDANG ARAW PO.

Mel Avila Alarilla said...

Hi Miss Kurdapya,
That was a very meaningful comment you have. You know, you can get your inspiration from Helen Keller. She was able to overcome her lifelong disabilities and conquered the world with her thoughts and works. In the beginning it was so easy to give up on her because of her precocious ways, but to the credit of her mentor- Ms. Anne Sullivan, she was transformed to a very unique woman of her days. She was the very first deaf blind to fully graduate from college with full academic honors. There are many "blind persons" (spiritually, that is) in the world who cant see what she can see. She has opened the eyes of the world to the grand reality of life, how one can conquer so much adversities and still emerge triumphant and strong.
Thanks for your visit and your generous comments. God bless and have a wonderful and pleasant day always. Always see the world through the eyes of your heart.

Mel Avila Alarilla said...

Hi Sameera,
I also read her autobiography when I was in college and she has inspired me so much by her indomitable spirit.
And when I saw her movie, it even increased my admiration for her. She's like a star that burst forth in the firmament of the sky to dazzle mankind with the luminescence of her life. Very few people indeed could do what she has done in the brief span of her days on earth and the memories of her inspiring life will continue to burn the pages of the history of the world's greats. How are you doing in Dubai my dear friend? I hope you have settled down and have began working again. Your last post was very philosophical. I hope you will expound more of your philosophies in life. God bless and have the best day of your life in Dubai.

c e e d y said...

thank you for this inspirational post, mel.....

people like these make us step up to life :)

Mel Avila Alarilla said...

Hi Ceedy,
Thanks for your visit. Helen Keller is indeed one in a million. Very few could probably accomplish what she did in her lifetime. God bless and have a wonderful and peaceful day always.

Green Earth said...

A wonderful life.

Mel Avila Alarilla said...

Hi Greenearth,
Thanks for your visit. Thanks for your comments too. God bless.

krystyna said...

I couldn't believe Mel, that I'll meet Hellen Keller here. I love the book
"The story of my life" and movie.
I read this book and listen to this book from cassette again and again. It is fascinate story, very moving and inspiring. The cassetes are perfect too. I grinded my poor English with this beautiful voice reading this story. It was two years ago, and thanks for remind me about this. Now I'm going to listen it again and I know that I will be understand more.
Thanks so much for posting this.

God bless you!

Mississippi Songbird said...

Her life always facinated me. I have been to her childhood home /museam in Alabama before..

My Great grandmother was blind and deaf. she had 6 children.. That is amazing to me. I know she must have had a hard life though, because she was only 12 when her parents married her off..
God bless you.. Have a good day..

Noushy Syah said...

Wow Mel,

Thanks for sharing this informative and inspirational post.What can I say! I think what she's gone through and what she accomplished in life is like one in a million...

Thanks again Mel.Inspirational post like this (reality) definitely make us step up to life!

Take care and keep smiling.

Mel Avila Alarilla said...

Hi Krystyna,
Her life has been a source of inspiration to me. Just like you, I never got tired reading her autobiography over and over again when I was in college. I could not believe what she was able to accomplish in her lifetime. Many people will find great inspiration by reading her life story. She's really one in a multi million. Thanks for your visit and for your inspiring comments. God bless and have a wonderful and pleasant day always.

Mel Avila Alarilla said...

Hi Mississippi Songbird,
It's nice that you were able to see her museum. She's really a great lady. If you have seen the movie about her life, "The Miracle Worker," you will be drenched in tears because of the great trials she was able to overcome to be able to interact with normal people. We're very fortunate that we have complete sense organs unlike her who was deaf and blind all her life. Thanks for your visit and your inspiring comments. God bless and have a nice and wonderful day in the US always.

Mel Avila Alarilla said...

Hi Noushy,
Helen Keller's life is truly amazing. Had her mentor, Anne Sullivan, given up on her because of her mercurial and impetuous behaviors when she first saw her and did not diligently nurtured and cared for her until she
had favorably responded, the world would have lost the beauty of an extra ordinary soul who blazed her way through life's firmament and left lasting legacies that would forever be etched in the sands of time. Truly her remarkable achievements can never be duplicated nor replicated by lesser
mortals. She's up there in the pantheon of this world's great people. Thanks for your visit and your inspiring comments. God bless you and have warm and cozy day in London always.

heiresschild said...

hi Mel, i remember watching the t.v. version of this movie years ago. her story is definitely one of inspiration, strength, determination and encouragement to keep running this race and enduring to the end, plus it opened doors for others.

thanks for your prayers. i am feeling better, although my voice has been gone for 3 days. i will be seeing my dr tomorrow.

peace & blessings to you and your family.

Mel Avila Alarilla said...

Hi Heiresschild,
I'm so glad that you are better now. But why do you have to see the doctor? Is it something that can not be handled without the doctor? I'm just asking my friend. Anyway, I will continue to pray for you until you are fully recovered. Helen Keller is indeed a great person worthy of emulation. She was able to overcome so much difficulties that you would think were insurmountable. She blazed a path than none could possibly equal in a hundred years time. The movie of her life is so touching that one could not see it just once. Thanks for your visit and your inspiring comments. God bless you and your family. Have a wonderful and peaceful day always.

krystyna said...

I am only one, but still I am one; I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; I will not refuse to do the something I can do.
- Helen Keller

Mel Avila Alarilla said...

Hi Krystyna,
That's a beautiful and powerful quotation from Helen Keller. Being one, and being deaf blind at that, did not stop her from accomplishing what she accomplished in her lifetime. So few could probably measure to the kind of life she has exhibited and done so far. Her example in life will be forever etched in the sands of time to be viewed and awed by countless of souls for generations and generations to come. Thanks for the wonderful quotation. God bless you and your family. Have the best time of your life in the US and Poland.

heiresschild said...

hi Mel, even though i started feeling better yesterday, i have laryngitis, so i wanted to check on that plus make sure i don't have strep throat, or an ear infection, or pneumonia, etc.

my dr said today i have an upper respitory infection, but nothing that required antibiotics. thank God for that! i'll just keep resting and stay quiet, but i'm back to blogging since i don't have to talk to blog. thanks for your concern.

preetilata said...

Helen Keller ws one great lady who has inspired me a lot. And I think the life story of her can inspire anybody on earth. Such determination, will power and love for life is rarely seen. I bow before that great lady.

thanks a lot Mel for such an extremly inspirational post along with lot of links and information. Your blog is a real delight for me always.

Keep writting as whatever you write means a lot to your readers.

Take Care
:) :) :)

Mel Avila Alarilla said...

Hi Heiresschild,
Thanks God that you are recovering. I pray to the Lord that you will be completely healed and will be able to do your usual chores. I'm glad that you will be able to resume blogging since you contribute a lot in spreading the joy of the Lord to the world. God bless you and your family and have a great and peaceful day in the US always.

Mel Avila Alarilla said...

Hi Preetilata,
Oh thank you so much for your wonderful comments but as always, TO GOD BE THE GLORY. I'm sure glad that you appreciate the life of Helen Keller. The first time I read her life story on her autobiography book, I never forgot what she was able to accomplish in her extraordinary lifetime. So few indeed could ever approximate nor equal what she has done for the whole of humanity. Her life story stand tall and is a blazing testimony of what man can do even with such tremendous handicaps. Thanks for coming and for your wonderful comments. God bless you and your family. Have the best time of your life always.

Bluebirdy said...

Hi Mel, well here is another thing we have in common! I LOVE HELEN KELLER! Since I read her book when I was 11 years old, she has been a great influence in my life. I love to look up her quotes and her writings on the internet, and I photocopied the little book she wrote and glued it into my journal when I was 12 years old. I will have to try to find that old journal so I can read that book again. It is a very rare find. Now you have inspired me to search online for a used copy of the book. I would love to own a copy. Wouldn't you?
Blessings to you and your beautiful family, Mel.

"Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts" (Hebrews 4:7b)


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