Helen Keller (1880-1968) was born in Alabama USA. She was a happy, healthy baby until she had a ‘strange illness’, which caused her to lose her sight and hearing. Although she was taken to many doctors none of them could cure her. She lived in a dark, silent world and became angry and frustrated. Helen’s mother heard of a school in Boston, Massachusetts, that taught children who were deaf and blind. She wrote to ask for a teacher for her daughter. When Helen was six years old a teacher called Annie Sullivan arrived at Helen’s home. Annie used the local environment to teach Helen. One of the first words she could finger spell and understand was ‘water’. Helen also learnt Braille, which is a system of raised dots allowing visually impaired people to read by touch. Helen also tried to speak by feeling the movements of Annie’s mouth and imitating them. Helen quickly became famous and used this fame to help other deaf-blind children. She wrote for magazines and newspapers.
It was most unusual for women to go to university, but Helen won a place at Radcliffe College - attached to Harvard University - and there she gained a degree. Afterwards Helen and Annie toured the world and worked hard for deaf-blind people. Both Helen and Annie were strong-willed women, who campaigned for women to have the vote and for more opportunities to be given to people with disabilities.
When Annie died in 1936, Helen continued touring and lecturing, even though she missed her ‘wonderful teacher’ very much. Helen is known throughout the world for her achievements despite her disabilities.