Having been born in Florida and raised in the South, the school systems I attended were always eager to share stories of those who impacted where we live now. A reoccurring name each year was Helen Keller, but she was always described as the woman who was blind and deaf, but did stuff anyway. Because her story was always oversimplified, I was inspired to learn about her on my own, so hopefully I can provide a more involved summary of Keller and her life.
Helen Adams Keller was born June 27, 1880 in Tuscumbia, Alabama. Although born with the ability to see and hear, she endured an illness in her early childhood that compromised her senses. Helen contracted an illness, called "brain fever" at the time, that rose her body temperature. Although we are still not certain the specifics of the disease, some experts believe it may have been scarlet fever or meningitis. After the fever broke, she didn't react when the dinner bell rang, or when a hand was waved in front of her face. Helen had lost both her sight and hearing when she was only nineteen months old.
Because of this, Helen Keller also slowly lost her ability to speak, though this did not render her silent. Keller had become a very wild and unruly child during this time. She tormented her eldest sister, Martha, and often threw raging tantrums against her parents. Many family relatives felt it would be best for the family if they institutionalized her. Helen was unable to effectively communicate, but at age six, her family hired a tutor, Anne Sullivan, to help her become literate. They began small with finger spelling, a style of teaching that did not grab young Helen’s attention forvery long. Being forced into lessons she had trouble following, Helen Keller started to throw more tantrums in defiance of her new teacher. Sullivan later demanded that Helen be separated from the rest of the family as the teaching was in progress, so the two moved to a cottage of Anne’s father, Thomas Macy. Because Anne’s help and a fresh environment, Helen gradually began to recover her communications skills, and she began to show an interest in creative writing. This hobby challenged the ableist expectations conceived by society. At this time period, most other children with communication difficulties were incarcerated in mental facilities, like what the other members of Helen’s family had recommended.
When she was twelve, she wrote “The Frost King.” However, it showed similarities to “The Frost Fairies” by Margaret T. Canby, which led eight different teachers to question Helen for two hours. Because of the interrogation and charge of willful plagiarism, Hellen Keller never wrote fiction for the fear of mixing others’ ideas with her own. But this incident did not stop her from continuing with nonfiction and activism. Helen attended college and fund-raised to assist others who struggled with their impairments. When she was a sophomore in college, Ladies’ Home Journal asked for her autobiography, later called The Story of My Life, which was published in 1902. Helen graduated college and continued to write. Because some were surprised by the imagery written by her despite her state, she was able to broaden the opportunities of other disabled individuals. After Helen’s graduation, her tutor Anne Sullivan Macy got married, but she continued to be Helen's guide and mentor. The two also collaborated on lectures, which led Helen to decide to move in with Sullivan and her husband, John.
When Helen went to live with the Macys, they both initially were eager to tend to her needs. This continued until John began to feel cut off from his wife. Gradually, Anne and John became distant due to Anne's unwavering devotion to Helen. After several years, Anne Sullivan and John Macy separated, though were never officially divorced. Helen and Anne went on to lecture together to increase public awareness of the perceptually compromised. Through experience, she learned about other forms of human limitations, such as gender, class, national, etc. She joined the US Socialist Party in 1909, was a pacifist, criticized obsessive military spending, and worked for woman’s suffrage. In 1912 she wrote to the striking Little Falls textile workers with money and encouragement to their cause and in 1913 she wrote “Why Men Need Woman Suffrage” explaining the mutual benefit of given voting rights to women. With the arrival of World War I, Keller lectured about socialism and the union movement and disapproved of America’s foreign policy that lead to their intervention of World War I. While still invested in these issues, she turned her focus on fundraising for the American Foundation for the Blind. The Modernist Literature market of World War I was not kind to Helen’s writing income. Though initially she denied his offer, Helen Keller was pushed by Anne Sullivan’s decreasing health to accept an allowance from capitalist Andrew Carnegie, a steel monopolist. While her writing was suffering, her lectures were taking off and deepened citizen’s knowledge of blindness and deafness. While in vaudeville, Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan met and befriended many famous people of the time, including the presidents between Grover Cleveland to John F. Kennedy.
In the 1920s, Helen and Anne often traveled to fund-raise money for the American Foundation of the Blind, an agency that stood by Helen until her death. In the 1920s, the popularity of her books began to rise again, some of with explained her opposition with the rise of Nazi power and support for union strikes. When her life time partner, Anne Sullivan, died in 1936, Helen relied on Scottish immigrant Polly Thompson, who had been supporting her since 1915 and continued to support her until Polly’s death in 1960. In 1955, Helen’s book Teacher: Anne Sullivan Macy: A Tribute by the Forster-Child of Her Mind was published, a biography in honor of her old friend Anne Sullivan.
Helen Keller continued to educate people about the deaf and blind until 1962, despite the death of her partner. In 1964 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor. She died in her sleep at age eighty-seven in the year 1968. Helen Keller used her childhood misfortune to speak out for those misunderstood in such respects. Though many able-bodied people couldn’t imagine surviving without such dominant senses, Helen Keller was able to write, lecture, study, travel, and most importantly, fight for the improved livelihood of the disabled. With her works she was able to influence people and organizations of power. She also raised money to aid the disabled, creating a domino effect of new organizations for the blind and deaf. For this she received many humanitarian awards. Helen Keller was born into a world that believed that she had nothing to offer, a world in which many deaf and blind people were still being held in mental institutions with inhumane treatment. Yet, she was able to break the mold of expectation and stereotypes. Though she was classified as the blind one, she was able to open the eyes of many people through the course of her life.
 “Helen Keller.” Bio. A&E Television Networks LLC, 2016. Web. 30 Jan. 2016.
 Keller, Helen. The Story of My Life. 1903. AFB.org. American Foundation for the Blind, 2016. Web. 30 Jan. 2016.
 “Helen Keller Biography.” AFB.org. American Foundation for the Blind, 2016. 09 Mar. 2016.
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 “Helen Keller Social Activist.” When Wise Women Speak. Blogspot, n.d. Web. 09 Mar. 2016.
 "Helen Keller Biography."