Helen Keller, born on June 27, 1880, was an author known for her work as a disability activist, who also fought for women’s right to vote, labor rights, and world peace. She is also famous for her autobiography, which has been a source of inspiration for people all around the world. Let’s celebrate this prolific author’s birthday right here!
Helen Adams Keller
June 27, 1880
June 1, 1968 (age 87)
Helen Keller was known as one of the biggest advocates of disability rights, having fought for them for most of her life. The author was born on June 27, 1880, in Tuscumbia, Alabama. Her parents were Arthur Henley Keller and Catherine Everett Keller.
She was only 19 months old when she contracted an unknown disease that left her deaf and blind. Keller communicated through home signs until she was seven years old. In 1886, her parents were referred to the inventor Alexander Graham Bell who, at the time, was working with deaf children. Bell, in turn, told them to go contact the Perkins Institute for the Blind, whose director sent in Anne Sullivan, a visually impaired alumna of the school, to be young Keller’s teacher. Sullivan started by teaching her student how to communicate by spelling words, starting with tracing words into her hand. The first word she ever taught Keller was ‘doll.’ In 1888, Keller joined the Perkins Institute, later shifting schools and finally attending college at Radcliffe College, Harvard University in 1900. She graduated from college four years later and became the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. Determined to learn to speak, Keller regularly gave lectures and speeches about her life and learned to effectively understand, read and communicate through different methods. She went on to become a celebrated author and speaker, and was an advocate for disability rights. She traveled to over 25 countries and gave speeches about the conditions of deaf people and the issues they go through on a daily basis. In 1915, she founded “Helen Keller International,” along with George A. Kessler, which was devoted to research in vision, health, and nutrition. She was already a part of the Socialist Party at the time and campaigned in the support of the working class until 1921. Most speeches that she gave and wrote spoke in favor of women’s suffrage and the effects of war. Keller went on to publish a total of 12 books and wrote many articles, among which was also her autobiography, “The Story of my Life.” (1903). The book spoke of Keller’s life up to the age of 21 and was written when she was in college. Five years later, she wrote “The World I Live in,” which chronicled her feelings about the world.
Sullivan remained Keller’s companion even after her education was complete, and remained so until 1914. Polly Thomson, a Scottish housekeeper, went on to become Keller’s companion and secretary later. The author almost eloped with her fiancé, Peter Fagan while in her thirties. She spent the final years of her life in her home, and on June 1, 1968, passed away in her sleep. Keller lived a full life, despite her disabilities.
The book, titled “The Story of my Life,” speaks of Keller’s life until the age of 21.
She becomes the first deaf-blind person to graduate from Radcliffe College with a Bachelor of Arts degree.
She joins the party and speaks and campaigns in favor of the working class.
With George A. Kessler, Keller establishes Helen Keller International, which works with vision, health, and nutritional research.
Keller leaves a huge legacy behind.
Why We Love Helen Keller
She didn’t let anything stop her
Keller was disabled, so naturally, it was thought that she couldn’t achieve much. However, she rose above those assumptions, and became famous in multiple fields: she published books, was an activist, and also gave speeches in favor of her beliefs.
She fought for all the right things
Keller lived in a time when many topics she advocated for were considered unnecessary. She fought for women's right to vote, birth control, and labor rights. She advocated disability rights during a time when disabled people were considered to be ‘burdens.’
Keller was determined
As she was someone who regularly gave speeches, Keller made efforts to get speech therapy, so her listeners could understand her words. She took measures to make sure she could communicate better. Keller was also so fascinated with the world, that she tried to learn everything she could about it!
5 Surprising Facts
Mark Twain was a friend
Twain, famous for his Tom Sawyer books, was one of Helen Keller’s oldest friends.
A Nobel Prize
In 1953, Keller was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her work while advocating disability rights in the Middle-East
A school has her name
When Keller went to the Middle East, she got the Egyptian education minister to promise that a secondary school for the blind will be built; thus, her activism’s legacy lives on, as there is a Helen Keller School located in Jerusalem, Israel.
She was aggressive as a child
When Keller was only a child, she would often throw aggressive tantrums — she was frustrated that she couldn’t express herself and her thoughts clearly.
Keller worked on the Vaudeville Circuit
Keller and her companion Anne Sullivan briefly worked on the Vaudeville Circuit, which was a theatrical variation of entertainment from France.
Helen Keller FAQs
What did Helen Keller invent?
When she was six years old, Keller invented a system of home signs that she used to communicate with her family. She did this along with her childhood friend Marsha Washington.
How did Helen Keller fly a plane?
Keller flew a plane using tactical sign language communication through Polly Thomson.
How did Helen Keller learn five languages?
She learned Latin, French, and German through braille, and she knew A.S.L. and English since childhood, taught to her by Anne Sullivan.
Helen Keller’s birthday dates