American author and activist Helen Adam Keller (June 27, 1880 - June 1, 1968) was discovered to be deaf and blind when she was barely 19 months. The Keller family contacted Alexander Graham Bell who was known then for his work for deaf children. He suggested that they connect with the Perkins Institute for the Blind. It was here that she met with her instructor Anne Sullivan, who was also blind. Thus began a 49-year-old between teacher and student. Keller made a huge impact as an author, activist and lecturer who was the first deaf/blind person to graduate from college. She remains a tireless advocate and inspiration for people with disabilities and numerous other causes.
>> Helen Adams Keller was born a healthy child on June 27, 1880, to Captain Arthur H. and Kate Adams Keller of Tuscumbia. At the tender age of 19 months, she was stricken with a severe illness which left her blind and deaf.
>> The first thing Anne Sullivan taught Keller was the word 'doll'. When she arrived in 1887 at the Keller’s home, she brought the gift of a doll for Helen. She then placed it in her one hand, while tracing the letters of the word doll in Keller’s other hand repeatedly. The learning process was exceptionally slow at first, because Keller didn’t really understand things like objects having names and the like but once she did, she wanted to know the names of everything around her.
>> By age 10, Helen had mastered Braille as well as the manual alphabet and even learned to use the typewriter. By the time she was 16, Helen could speak well enough to go to preparatory school and to college.
>> In 1904, at the age of 24, she was graduated 'cum laude' from Radcliffe College becoming the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree.
>> In 1915 she along with George Kessler founded the Helen Keller International (HKI) organization. This organization is devoted to research in vision, health and nutrition. There is one Helen Keller institute in Vashi, Navi Mumbai as well.
A statue of Helen Keller is unveiled Ocober 7, 2009 during a ceremony in the US Capitol Rotunda in Washington, DC. Pic/AFP
>> She wrote 12 books in her lifetime, along with a series of articles on various topics. The first story she ever wrote at the age of 11 was called 'The Frost King' which was extremely similar to the story The Frost Fairies, by Margaret Canby.
>> Helen Keller was good friends with Mark Twain, the two having originally met when she was 16. She also became friends with Alexander Graham Bell and Charlie Chaplin later on.
>> Helen was a great lover of dogs and she was responsible for introducing the Japanese breed, The Akita, to America.
>> Helen learnt to communicate in different ways that included finger-spelling, lip-reading, reading Braille and using a typewriter.
>> Keller suffered a series of strokes beginning in 1961. She died on June 1, 1968 in her sleep. She was cremated with her ashes placed beside her two great friends and constant companions through life, her teacher Anne Sullivan, and her later friend and caretaker Polly Thompson.
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