Helen Keller was born in Tuscumbia, Alabama on June 27, 1880 to Arthur K. Heller and Katherine Adams Keller. In 1882, she contracted an illness which left her deaf and blind. She managed to create a limited language with the daughter of the family cook, Martha Washington, but acted out wildly when angry or upset. Her family consulted Alexander Graham Bell who sent them to the Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston, Massachusetts. It was there in 1887 the family found Helen’s long-time tutor Anne Sullivan. Sullivan created an alphabet to spell out words on Helen’s hand, and eventually she was able to connect the spelled words with the objects around her.
In 1890, Helen began speech classes at the Horace Mann School for the Deaf in Boston where she worked diligently for 25 years to learn to speak. During those 25 years she also attended a preparatory school for woman, and with the help of Mark Twain and Henry H. Rogers, Radcliff College. She graduated cum laude in 1904 from Radcliff at the age of 25.
Helen could touch lip-read, finger spell, type, read braille, and speak. She was politically active, fought for women’s rights, and became a member of the Socialist party. She wrote articles for newspapers, an autobiography entitled The Story Of My Life,, and devoted herself to raising funds for the American Foundation of the Blind. She received the Theodore Roosevelt Distinguished Service Medal in 1936, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964, and was elected into the Women’s Hall of Fame in 1965. On June 1, 1968, Helen died in her sleep in Westport, Connecticut.