An American author, lecturer and political activists – Helen Adam Keller is a great example of advocacy and dynamism for all the people with various disabilities. She was born on June 27, 1880, in Tuscumbia, Alabama, United States. She proved to the world that deaf-blind people can also gain an education – a definition of a model citizen for people in the world.
When Helen was 7 years old, the search of her father for his deaf-blind daughter ended with Anne Sullivan – the one that showed light to a blind girl. She was an American teacher who is famously known as the educator and lifelong companion of Helen.
BEFORE HELEN KELLER
Julia Brace was born on June 13, 1807, to a poor family in Hartford County, Connecticut. She was just 5 years old when she became deaf-blind from typhus fever. As a child, she did not get much formal education. She did learn tactile signing from staff and deaf students at the Hartford school.
Brace was enrolled in Hartford Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb (American School of Deaf). She was not shy to take part in the school community, and she made many friends there. She was a kind person and a compassionate nurse.
Samuel Gridley Howe was a teacher at Perkins School for the blind. During his visit to Hartford school, he met Brace at around 1837 where he saw Brace’s tactile signing.
Gridley came back to his school and started teaching deaf-blind Laura Bridgman, who was the first deaf-blind child to acquire an education in the English language, along with others like her. His teaching methods proved to be a success and he decided to go back to Hartford school with Laura Bridgman. He wanted to teach Brace (34 years old at that time) the English language and got her enrolled in Perkins School in 1842. Brace had the chance to learn but preferred tactile signing – she left and came back to Hartford after one year.
Howe devised a teaching plan for Laura Bridgman that included tactile signing. Bridgman was taught how to read and write through tactile signing, a teaching method never used before. Howe remained persistent with his teaching strategy and achieved success.
At Perkins School, Bridgman shared a room with Anne Sullivan who was later to become Helen Keller’s teacher. Both of them became friends and Bridgman taught Sullivan the manual alphabet.
Anne Sullivan contracted trachoma when she was five years old. She became blind soon after and received her education from Perkins School. After graduation, she became a teacher and met Helen’s father at the age of 20. Anne Sullivan taught Helen what she learned from Laura Bridgman – and that was the start of a remarkable journey.
THE HELEN KELLER WE KNOW
Helen Keller was a prolific author, and she was a distinguished member of the Industrial Workers of the World and Socialist Party of America. As an activist, she raised voice for labor rights, women’s suffrage, anti-militarism, socialism, and other causes. She became a role model for everyone and not just deaf-blind people.
Helen Keller took years in making before she was born in 1880; it was the pivotal roles of Julia Brace, Laura Bridgman, and Ann Sullivan who are responsible for the Helen Keller we know!