Helen Keller

3/5/08 Update: Researchers have uncovered a rare photograph of a young Helen Keller with her teacher Anne Sullivan, nearly 120 years after it was taken on Cape Cod and tucked inside a family album. The photograph, shot in July 1888 in Brewster, shows an 8-year-old Helen sitting outside in a light-colored dress, holding Sullivan's hand and cradling one of her beloved dolls.

7/13/07: Helen Keller was not born blind and deaf but at nineteen months of age she came down with an illness (possibly scarlet fever or meningitis) which, though it did not last for a particularly long time, left her deaf and blind.

At that time her only communication partner was Martha Washington, the 6-year old daughter of the family cook, who was able to create a sign language with Helen, so that by age seven, she had over sixty different signs to communicate with her family.

In 1886 twenty year old Anne Sullivan (pictured here with Helen), herself visually impaired became Helen's teacher. It was the beginning of a 49-year-long relationship. Their relationship was the basis of the book and 1962 movie "The Miracle Worker".

In 1904 at the age of 24, Helen graduated from Radcliffe magna cum laude, becoming the first deaf and blind person to graduate from a college. Sixty years later on September 14, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson awarded Helen Keller the Presidential Medal of Freedom, one of the United States' highest two civilian honors.

Helen devoted much of her later life to raise funds for the American Foundation for the Blind. She died on June 1, 1968, passing away 26 days before her 88th birthday. Helen lived an amazing life. She was such an inspirational person. Following are a few of her quotes:

The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature.

Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light.

I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.

Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content.

I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.

It gives me a deep comforting sense that "things seen are temporal and things unseen are eternal."

It is hard to interest those who have everything in those who have nothing.

Love is like a beautiful flower which I may not touch, but whose fragrance makes the garden a place of delight just the same.

Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.

No one has a right to consume happiness without producing it.

Self-pity is our worst enemy and if we yield to it, we can never do anything wise in this world.

No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.

Once I knew only darkness and stillness... my life was without past or future... but a little word from the fingers of another fell into my hand that clutched at emptiness, and my heart leaped to the rapture of living.
Reading these quotes is so therepeutic - especially when I am tempted to feel sorry for myself :)


  1. just the thought of being both blind and deaf terrorizes me. I have always been in awe of HK.

  2. There is some medical speculation that she actually could see, but that her brain was damaged by the illnesses and the connection between her vision and her ability to process it was damaged. It goes to explain how she could describe how certain things looked, or the proportion of one thing to another, beyond someone explaining them to her. What could she know of stars, for example? This doesn't take one tiny speck away from her accomplishment, her gifts or the beauty of her "thought life" (nice term, Mike) but it helps, potentially, explain why she had some discernments that other blind/deaf people do not.


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