Helen Keller was born to a large affluent family in Tuscumbia, Alabama, in 1880 and lived with her parents and four siblings on their historic homestead, Ivy Green. On her mother’s side, she was related to a number of prominent New England families. Helen’s father, Arthur Keller, was a captain in the Confederate army. The family lost most of its wealth during the Civil War and lived modestly. At the age of 19 months, Helen became deaf and blind as a result of an unknown illness, perhaps rubella or scarlet fever. As Helen grew from infancy into childhood, she became wild and unruly. She was initially able to communicate only with the young daughter of the family’s cook using signs, and within the next few years, she discovered more than 60 home signs she used to communicate with her family. She could even determine who was approaching by distinguishing between the vibrations of people’s footsteps.
As she so often remarked as an adult, her life changed on March 3, 1887. On that day, Anne Mansfield Sullivan (a visually impaired woman herself) came to Tuscumbia to be her teacher, especially to teach her how to communicate. She was just 14 years older than her pupil Helen, and she too suffered from serious vision problems. Anne underwent many botched operations at a young age before her sight was partially restored. Though the process was slow and frustrating for young Helen, she eventually became determined to learn the name of every item in this world that had previously escaped her. A whole new world had opened up for her, and though she had remained isolated for the initial years of her life, she maintained her connection to the beauty offered by music and books. At age 24, Helen became the first deaf-blind person to earn a bachelor of arts degree.
Helen’s pursuit of goodness and greatness was unfaltering, and over the years, she learned to communicate using the spoken word by observing and imitating the mouth movements of others. She went on to write numerous books, autobiographical and other, as well as give lectures and speeches on her life and overcoming seemingly impossible difficulties.
During seven trips between 1946 and 1957, she visited 35 countries on five continents. She met with world leaders such as Winston Churchill, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Golda Meir. She became a celebrity, therefore.
She was a suffragist, an advocate for people with disabilities, a political activist, and a profoundly powerful woman. Her words have been the result of a long and strenuous but ultimately victorious battle that reminds us that we should always have hope and always keep fighting!
I will post here a few of her renowned motivational sayings that might be helpful to many of us.
“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope.”
“No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.”
“When all you can feel are the shadows, turn your face towards the sun.”
“Each day comes to me with both hands full of possibilities.”
“Face your deficiencies and acknowledge them; but do not let them master you. Let them teach you patience, sweetness, insight.”
“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”
I wish you to overcome all the obstacles in your life the way Helen did, with so much determination, undeterred by her disabilities!