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Helen Keller

Keller in 1904
Born June 27, 1880(1880-06-27)
Tuscumbia, Alabama, USA
Died June 1, 1968 (aged 87)
Arcan Ridge, Easton, Connecticut, USA

Helen Adams Keller (June 27, 1880 – June 1, 1968) was an American author, political activist and lecturer. She was the first deafblind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree.[1][2] The story of how Keller's teacher, Anne Sullivan, broke through the isolation imposed by a near complete lack of language, allowing the girl to blossom as she learned to communicate, has become known worldwide through the dramatic depictions of the play and film The Miracle Worker.

A prolific author, Keller was well traveled and was outspoken in her opposition to war. She campaigned for women's suffrage, workers' rights, and socialism, as well as many other progressive causes.

Contents

Early childhood and illness

Keller with Anne Sullivan vacationing at Cape Cod in July 1888

Helen Adams Keller was born on a plantation called Ivy Green[3] in Tuscumbia, Alabama, on June 27, 1880, to Captain Arthur H. Keller,[4] a former officer of the Confederate Army, and Kate Adams Keller,[5] a cousin of Robert E. Lee and daughter of Charles W. Adams, a former Confederate general.[6] The Keller family originates from Switzerland.[7] Helen Keller was not born blind and deaf; it was not until she was 19 months old that she contracted an illness described by doctors as "an acute congestion of the stomach and the brain", which might have been scarlet fever or meningitis. The illness did not last for a particularly long time, but it left her deaf and blind. At that time, she was able to communicate somewhat with Martha Washington,[8] the six-year-old daughter of the family cook, who understood her signs; by the age of seven, she had over 60 home signs to communicate with her family. According to Soviet blind-deaf psychologist A. Meshcheryakov, Martha's friendship and teaching was crucial for Helen's later development.

In 1886, her mother, inspired by an account in Charles Dickens' American Notes of the successful education of another deaf and blind child, Laura Bridgman, dispatched young Helen, accompanied by her father, to seek out Dr. J. Julian Chisolm, an eye, ear, nose, and throat specialist in Baltimore, for advice.[9] He subsequently put them in touch with Alexander Graham Bell, who was working with deaf children at the time. Bell advised the couple to contact the Perkins Institute for the Blind, the school where Bridgman had been educated, which was then located in South Boston. Michael Anaganos, the school's director, asked former student Anne Sullivan, herself visually impaired and only 20 years old, to become Keller's instructor. It was the beginning of a 49-year-long relationship, evolving into governess and then eventual companion.

Anne Sullivan arrived at Keller's house in March 1887, and immediately began to teach Helen to communicate by spelling words into her hand, beginning with d-o-l-l for the doll that she had brought Keller as a present. Keller's big breakthrough in communication came the next month, when she realized that the motions her teacher was making on the palm of her hand, while running cool water over her other hand, symbolized the idea of "water"; she then nearly exhausted Sullivan demanding the names of all the other familiar objects in her world.

Due to a protruding left eye, Keller was usually photographed in profile. Both her eyes were replaced in adulthood with glass replicas for "medical and cosmetic reasons".[10]

Formal education

Keller and Sullivan in 1898

Starting in May, 1888, Keller attended the Perkins Institute for the Blind. In 1894, Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan moved to New York to attend the Wright-Humason School for the Deaf and Horace Mann School for the Deaf. In 1896, they returned to Massachusetts and Keller entered The Cambridge School for Young Ladies before gaining admittance, in 1900, to Radcliffe College. Her admirer, Mark Twain, had introduced her to Standard Oil magnate Henry Huttleston Rogers, who, with his wife, paid for her education. In 1904, at the age of 24, Keller graduated from Radcliffe, becoming the first deaf blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Companions

Anne Sullivan stayed as a companion to Helen Keller long after she taught her. Anne married John Macy in 1905, and her health started failing around 1914. Polly Thompson was hired to keep house. She was a young woman from Scotland who didn't have experience with deaf or blind people. She progressed to working as a secretary as well, and eventually became a constant companion to Keller.[11]

Keller moved to Forest Hills, Queens together with Anne and John, and used the house as a base for her efforts on behalf of American Foundation for the Blind.[12]

After Anne died in 1936, Keller and Thompson moved to Connecticut. They traveled worldwide and raised funding for the blind. Thompson had a stroke in 1957 from which she never fully recovered, and died in 1960.[1]

Winnie Corbally, a nurse who was originally brought in to care for Polly Thompson in 1957, stayed on after Thompson's death and was Keller's companion for the rest of her life.[1]

Political activities

Keller went on to become a world-famous speaker and author. She is remembered as an advocate for people with disabilities amid numerous other causes. She was a suffragette, a pacifist, an opponent of Woodrow Wilson, a radical Socialist, and a birth control supporter. In 1915, she and George Kessler founded the Helen Keller International (HKI) organization. This organization is devoted to research in vision, health and nutrition. In 1920, she helped to found the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Keller and Sullivan traveled to over 39 countries, making several trips to Japan and becoming a favorite of the Japanese people. Keller met every US President from Grover Cleveland to Lyndon B. Johnson and was friends with many famous figures, including Alexander Graham Bell, Charlie Chaplin, and Mark Twain.

Helen Keller sitting holding a magnolia flower, circa 1920

Keller was a member of the Socialist Party and actively campaigned and wrote in support of the working class from 1909 to 1921. She supported Socialist Party candidate Eugene V. Debs in each of his campaigns for the presidency.

Keller and her friend Mark Twain were both considered radicals at the beginning of the 20th century, and as a consequence, their political views have been forgotten or glossed over in popular perception.[13] Newspaper columnists who had praised her courage and intelligence before she expressed her socialist views now called attention to her disabilities. The editor of the Brooklyn Eagle wrote that her "mistakes sprung out of the manifest limitations of her development." Keller responded to that editor, referring to having met him before he knew of her political views:

At that time the compliments he paid me were so generous that I blush to remember them. But now that I have come out for socialism he reminds me and the public that I am blind and deaf and especially liable to error. I must have shrunk in intelligence during the years since I met him...Oh, ridiculous Brooklyn Eagle! Socially blind and deaf, it defends an intolerable system, a system that is the cause of much of the physical blindness and deafness which we are trying to prevent.[14]

Keller joined the Industrial Workers of the World (known as the IWW or the Wobblies) in 1912,[13] saying that parliamentary socialism was "sinking in the political bog". She wrote for the IWW between 1916 and 1918. In Why I Became an IWW,[15] Keller explained that her motivation for activism came in part from her concern about blindness and other disabilities:

I was appointed on a commission to investigate the conditions of the blind. For the first time I, who had thought blindness a misfortune beyond human control, found that too much of it was traceable to wrong industrial conditions, often caused by the selfishness and greed of employers. And the social evil contributed its share. I found that poverty drove women to a life of shame that ended in blindness.

The last sentence refers to prostitution and syphilis, the latter a leading cause of blindness.

Writings

Keller wrote a total of 12 published books and several articles.

One of her earliest pieces of writing, at age 11, was The Frost King (1891). There were allegations that this story had been plagiarized from The Frost Fairies by Margaret Canby. An investigation into the matter revealed that Keller may have experienced a case of cryptomnesia, which was that she had Canby's story read to her but forgot about it, while the memory remained in her subconscious.[1]

At age 22, Keller published her autobiography, The Story of My Life (1903), with help from Sullivan and Sullivan's husband, John Macy. It includes words that Keller wrote and the story of her life up to age 21, and was written during her time in college.

Keller wrote The World I Live In in 1908 giving readers an insight into how she felt about the world.[16] Out of the Dark, a series of essays on socialism, was published in 1913.

Her spiritual autobiography, My Religion, was published in 1927 and re-issued as Light in my Darkness. It advocates the teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg, the controversial mystic who gives a spiritual interpretation of the Last Judgment and second coming of Jesus Christ, and the movement named after him, Swedenborgianism.

Akita dog

When Keller visited Akita Prefecture in Japan in July 1937, she inquired about Hachikō, the famed Akita dog that had died in 1935. She told a Japanese person that she would like to have an Akita dog; one was given to her within a month, with the name of Kamikaze-go. When he died of canine distemper, his older brother, Kenzan-go, was presented to her as an official gift from the Japanese government in July 1938. Keller is credited with having introduced the Akita to the United States through these two dogs.

By 1939 a breed standard had been established and dog shows had been held, but such activities stopped after World War II began. Keller wrote in the Akita Journal:

If ever there was an angel in fur, it was Kamikaze. I know I shall never feel quite the same tenderness for any other pet. The Akita dog has all the qualities that appeal to me — he is gentle, companionable and trusty.[17][18]

Later life

Keller suffered a series of strokes in 1961 and spent the last years of her life at her home.[1]

On September 14, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, one of the United States' highest two civilian honors.[19] In 1965 she was elected to the National Women's Hall of Fame at the New York World's Fair.[1]

Keller devoted much of her later life to raising funds for the American Foundation for the Blind. She died in her sleep on June 1, 1968 at her home, Arcan Ridge, located in Westport, Connecticut. A service was held in her honor at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. and her ashes were placed there next to her constant companions, Anne Sullivan and Polly Thompson.

Portrayals

Keller's life has been interpreted many times. She appeared in a silent film, Deliverance (1919), which told her story in a melodramatic, allegorical style.[20]

She was also the subject of the documentaries Helen Keller in Her Story, narrated by Katharine Cornell, and The Story of Helen Keller, part of the Famous Americans series produced by Hearst Entertainment.

Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke (right) in the Broadway play The Miracle Worker (1959-1961)

The Miracle Worker is a cycle of dramatic works ultimately derived from her autobiography, The Story of My Life. The various dramas each describe the relationship between Keller and Sullivan, depicting how the teacher led her from a state of almost feral wildness into education, activism, and intellectual celebrity. The common title of the cycle echoes Mark Twain's description of Sullivan as a "miracle worker." Its first realization was the 1957 Playhouse 90 teleplay of that title by William Gibson. He adapted it for a Broadway production in 1959 and an Oscar-winning feature film in 1962, starring Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke. It was remade for television in 1979 and 2000.

In 1984, Helen Keller's life story was made into a TV movie called The Miracle Continues.[21] This film that entailed the semi-sequel to The Miracle Worker recounts her college years and her early adult life. None of the early movies hint at the social activism that would become the hallmark of Keller's later life, although The Walt Disney Company version produced in 2000 states in the credits that she became an activist for social equality.

The Bollywood movie Black (2005) was largely based on Keller's story, from her childhood to her graduation. A documentary called Shining Soul: Helen Keller's Spiritual Life and Legacy was produced by the Swedenborg Foundation in the same year. The film focuses on the role played by Emanuel Swedenborg's spiritual theology in her life and how it inspired Keller's triumph over her triple disabilities of blindness, deafness and a severe speech impediment.

On March 6, 2008, the New England Historic Genealogical Society announced that a staff member had discovered a rare 1888 photograph showing Helen and Anne, which, although previously published, had escaped widespread attention.[22] Depicting Helen holding one of her many dolls, it is believed to be the earliest surviving photograph of Anne.[23]

Posthumous honors

Helen Keller as depicted on the Alabama state quarter

In 1999, Keller was listed in Gallup's Most Widely Admired People of the 20th Century.

In 2003, Alabama honored its native daughter on its state quarter.[24]

The Helen Keller Hospital in Sheffield, Alabama is dedicated to her.[25]

There are streets named after Helen Keller in Getafe, Spain and Lod, Israel. [26]

A pre-school for the deaf and hard of hearing in Mysore, India, was originally named after Helen Keller by its founder K. K. Srinivasan.

On October 7, 2009, a bronze statue of Helen Keller was added to the National Statuary Hall Collection, as a replacement for the State of Alabama's former 1908 statue of Jabez Lamar Monroe Curry. It is displayed in the United States Capitol Visitor Center and depicts Keller as a seven year old child standing at a water pump. The statue represents the seminal moment in Keller's life when she understood her first word: W-A-T-E-R, as signed into her hand by teacher Anne Sullivan. The pedestal base bears a quotation in raised letters and Braille characters: "The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart."[27] The statue is the first one of a handicapped person and of a child to be permanently displayed at the U.S. Capitol.[28][29][30]

See also

Further reading

  • Keller, Helen with Anne Sullivan and John A. Macy (1903) The Story of My Life. New York, NY: Doubleday, Page & Co.
  • Lash, Joseph P. (1980) Helen and Teacher: The Story of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan Macy . New York, NY: Delacorte Press. ISBN 0440036542
  • Herrmann, Dorothy (1998) Helen Keller: A Life. New York, NY: Knopf. ISBN 0679443541

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f "The life of Helen Keller". Royal National Institute of Blind People. 2008-11-20. http://www.rnib.org.uk/xpedio/groups/public/documents/publicwebsite/public_keller.hcsp. Retrieved 2009-01-22. 
  2. ^ "Helen Keller FAQ". Perkins School for the Blind. http://www.perkins.org/culture/helenkeller/helenkellerfaq.html. Retrieved 2009-01-22. 
  3. ^ Virtual tour of Ivy Green, Helen Keller's birthplace and by the age of 2 keller got sick with a trachoma and became blind and deaf Official site of Ivy Green, Helen Keller's birthplace
  4. ^ "Arthur H. Keller". Encyclopedia of Alabama. http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/face/Multimedia.jsp?id=m-2381. Retrieved 2010-03-07. 
  5. ^ "Kate Adams Keller". American Foundation for the Blind. http://www.afb.org/braillebug/hkgallery.asp?frameid=4. Retrieved 2010-03-07. 
  6. ^ "Charles W. Adams (1817 - 1878) - Find A Grave Memorial". Findagrave.com. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=8578177. Retrieved 2009-08-11. 
  7. ^ American Foundation for the Blind
  8. ^ "The Story of My Life, by Helen Keller - page 11 discusses Martha Washington". Project Gutenberg. http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/world/readfile?fk_files=729&pageno=11. Retrieved 2010-03-07. 
  9. ^ Worthington, W. Curtis. A Family Album: Men Who Made the Medical Center (Medical University of South Carolina ed.). ISBN 978-0871524447. http://www.muschealth.com/about_us/history/chislom.htm. 
  10. ^ Herrmann, Dorothy. Helen Keller: A Life. New York, NY: Knopf. ISBN 0679443541. 
  11. ^ The Life of Helen Keller
  12. ^ The life of Helen Keller, Royal National Institute of Blind People, last updated November 20, 2008. Retrieved June 17, 2009.
  13. ^ a b Loewen, James W. (1996) [1995]. Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong (Touchstone Edition ed.). New York, NY: Touchstone. pp. 20–22. ISBN 0-684-81886-8. 
  14. ^ Keller, Helen. "How I Became a Socialist". http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/keller-helen/works/1910s/12_11_03.htm. Retrieved 2007-08-27. 
  15. ^ "Why I Became an IWW" in Helen Keller Reference Archive from An interview written by Barbara Bindley published in the New York Tribune, January 16, 1916
  16. ^ Keller, Helen (2004) [1908]. The World I Live In (NYRB Classics 2004 ed.). New York: NYRB Classics. ISBN 978-1590170670. 
  17. ^ The Akita Inu: The Voice of Japan by Rick Beauchamp in Dog & Kennel
  18. ^ Helen Keller: First Akitas in the USA
  19. ^ Presidential Medal of Freedom, Helen Keller
  20. ^ "Deliverance (1919)". http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0010061/. Retrieved June 15, 2006. 
  21. ^ "Helen Keller: The Miracle Continues (1984) (TV)". http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0087401/. Retrieved June 15, 2006. 
  22. ^ The Independent. "Picture of Helen Keller as a child revealed after 120 years". http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/picture-of-helen-keller-as-a-child-revealed-after-120-years-792781.html. 
  23. ^ Newly Discovered Photograph Features Never Before Seen Image Of Young Helen Keller, New England Genealogical Society. Retrieved March 6, 2008.
  24. ^ A likeness of Helen Keller is featured on Alabama's quarter
  25. ^ Helen Keller Hospital website
  26. ^ [1] maps.google.com
  27. ^ "Helen Keller". The Architect of The Capitol. http://www.aoc.gov/cc/art/nsh/keller.cfm. Retrieved 2009-12-25. 
  28. ^ "Helen Keller Statue Unveiled in Capitol". CBS News. 2009-10-7. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/10/07/politics/main5369775.shtml. Retrieved 2008-12-25. 
  29. ^ "Helen Keller statue unveiled at Capitol". CNN. 2009-10-7. http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/10/07/HELEN.KELLER.STATUE/index.html. Retrieved 2008-12-25. 
  30. ^ "One Impressive Kid Gets Her Statue at Capitol". The Washington Post. 2009-10-8. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/07/AR2009100703498.html. Retrieved 2008-12-25. 

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Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it. My optimism, then, does not rest on the absence of evil, but on a glad belief in the preponderance of good and a willing effort always to cooperate with the good, that it may prevail.

Helen Adams Keller (June 27, 1880June 1, 1968) was an American writer and social activist; an illness (possibly scarlet fever or meningitis) at the age of 19 months left her deaf and blind.

Contents

Sourced

One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar.
  • I want to say to those who are trying to learn to speak and those who are teaching them: Be of good cheer. Do not think of to-day's failures, but of the success that may come to-morrow. You have set yourselves a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere, and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles — a delight in climbing rugged paths, which you would perhaps never know if you did not sometime slip backward — if the road was always smooth and pleasant. Remember, no effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost. Sometime, somewhere, somehow we shall find that which we seek. We shall speak, yes, and sing, too, as God intended we should speak and sing.
    • Address to the American Association to Promote the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf at Mt. Airy, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (8 July 1896)
  • The only real blind person at Christmas-time is he who has not Christmas in his heart. We sightless children had the best of eyes that day in our hearts and in our finger-tips. We were glad from the child's necessity of being happy. The blind who have outgrown the child's perpetual joy can be children again on Christmas Day and celebrate in the midst of them who pipe and dance and sing a new song!
    • "Christmas in the Dark" in Ladies Home Journal (December 1906)
We differ, blind and seeing, one from another, not in our senses, but in the use we make of them, in the imagination and courage with which we seek wisdom beyond the senses...
  • The bulk of the world’s knowledge is an imaginary construction.
    • The Five-sensed World (1910)
  • We differ, blind and seeing, one from another, not in our senses, but in the use we make of them, in the imagination and courage with which we seek wisdom beyond the senses.
    • The Five-sensed World (1910)
  • The problems of deafness are deeper and more complex, if not more important, than those of blindness. Deafness is a much worse misfortune. For it means the loss of the most vital stimulus — the sound of the voice that brings language, sets thoughts astir and keeps us in the intellectual company of man.
    • Letter to Dr. James Kerr Love (1910), published in Helen Keller in Scotland: a personal record written by herself (1933), edited by James Kerr Love. Paraphrasing of this statement may have been the origin of a similar one which has become attributed to her:
Blindness cuts us off from things, but deafness cuts us off from people.
  • When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.
    • We Bereaved (1929)
  • Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.
    • Let Us Have Faith (1940)
  • Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.
    • The Open Door (1957) This quotation is often contracted into: Security is mostly a superstition... Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. or paraphrased: Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.
  • I do not want the peace that passeth understanding. I want the understanding which bringeth peace.
    • Quoted in Henry More: The Rational Theology of a Cambridge Plattonist (1962) by Aharon Lichtenstein, page 100.
Tyranny cannot defeat the power of ideas.
  • Our democracy is but a name. We vote? What does that mean? It means that we choose between two bodies of real, though not avowed, autocrats. We choose between Tweedledum and Tweedledee . . . You ask for votes for women. What good can votes do when ten-elevenths of the land of Great Britain belongs to 200,000 and only one-eleventh to the rest of the 40,000,000? Have your men with their millions of votes freed themselves from this injustice?
    • Quoted in A People's History of the United States (1980) page 345.

The Story of My Life (1903)

The most important day I remember in all my life is the one on which my teacher, Anne Mansfield Sullivan, came to me...
  • The most important day I remember in all my life is the one on which my teacher, Anne Mansfield Sullivan, came to me. I am filled with wonder when I consider the immeasurable contrasts between the two lives which it connects. It was the third of March, 1887, three months before I was seven years old.
    • Ch. 4
  • Have you ever been at sea in a dense fog, when it seemed as if a tangible white darkness shut you in, and the great ship, tense and anxious, groped her way toward the shore with plummet and sounding-line, and you waited with beating heart for something to happen? I was like that ship before my education began, only I was without compass or sounding-line, and had no way of knowing how near the harbour was. "Light! give me light!" was the wordless cry of my soul, and the light of love shone on me in that very hour.
    • Ch. 4
Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten — a thrill of returning thought...
  • We walked down the path to the well-house, attracted by the fragrance of the honeysuckle with which it was covered. Some one was drawing water and my teacher placed my hand under the spout. As the cool stream gushed over one hand she spelled into the other the word water, first slowly, then rapidly. I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motions of her fingers. Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten — a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that "w-a-t-e-r" meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free! There were barriers still, it is true, but barriers that could in time be swept away.
    I left the well-house eager to learn. Everything had a name, and each name gave birth to a new thought. As we returned to the house every object which I touched seemed to quiver with life. That was because I saw everything with the strange, new sight that had come to me.
    • Ch. 4
  • I had now the key to all language, and I was eager to learn to use it. Children who hear acquire language without any particular effort; the words that fall from others' lips they catch on the wing, as it were, delightedly, while the little deaf child must trap them by a slow and often painful process. But whatever the process, the result is wonderful. Gradually from naming an object we advance step by step until we have traversed the vast distance between our first stammered syllable and the sweep of thought in a line of Shakespeare.
    • Ch. 6
Is this not love? No, it's the sun.
  • I remember the morning that I first asked the meaning of the word, "love." This was before I knew many words. I had found a few early violets in the garden and brought them to my teacher. She tried to kiss me: but at that time I did not like to have any one kiss me except my mother. Miss Sullivan put her arm gently round me and spelled into my hand, "I love Helen."
    "What is love?" I asked.
    She drew me closer to her and said, "It is here," pointing to my heart, whose beats I was conscious of for the first time. Her words puzzled me very much because I did not then understand anything unless I touched it.
    I smelt the violets in her hand and asked, half in words, half in signs, a question which meant, "Is love the sweetness of flowers?"
    "No," said my teacher.
    Again I thought. The warm sun was shining on us.
    "Is this not love?" I asked, pointing in the direction from which the heat came. "Is this not love?"
    It seemed to me that there could be nothing more beautiful than the sun, whose warmth makes all things grow. But Miss Sullivan shook her head, and I was greatly puzzled and disappointed. I thought it strange that my teacher could not show me love.
    • Ch. 6
In a flash I knew that the word was the name of the process that was going on in my head. This was my first conscious perception of an abstract idea...
  • Miss Sullivan touched my forehead and spelled with decided emphasis, "Think."
    In a flash I knew that the word was the name of the process that was going on in my head. This was my first conscious perception of an abstract idea.
    For a long time I was still ... trying to find a meaning for "love" in the light of this new idea. The sun had been under a cloud all day, and there had been brief showers; but suddenly the sun broke forth in all its southern splendour.
    Again I asked my teacher, "Is this not love?"
    "Love is something like the clouds that were in the sky before the sun came out," she replied. Then in simpler words than these, which at that time I could not have understood, she explained:
    "You cannot touch the clouds, you know; but you feel the rain and know how glad the flowers and the thirsty earth are to have it after a hot day. You cannot touch love either; but you feel the sweetness that it pours into everything. Without love you would not be happy or want to play."
    The beautiful truth burst upon my mind — I felt that there were invisible lines stretched between my spirit and the spirits of others.
    • Ch. 6
  • Ruth is so loyal and gentle-hearted, we cannot help loving her, as she stands with the reapers amid the waving corn. Her beautiful, unselfish spirit shines out like a bright star in the night of a dark and cruel age. Love like Ruth's, love which can rise above conflicting creeds and deep-seated racial prejudices, is hard to find in all the world.
    • Ch. 21
I do not remember a time since I have been capable of loving books that I have not loved Shakespeare...
  • The Bible gives me a deep, comforting sense that "things seen are temporal and things unseen are eternal."
    • Ch. 21
  • I do not remember a time since I have been capable of loving books that I have not loved Shakespeare.
    • Ch. 21
  • I read "King Lear" soon after "Macbeth," and I shall never forget the feeling of horror when I came to the scene in which Gloster's eyes are put out. Anger seized me, my fingers refused to move, I sat rigid for one long moment, the blood throbbing in my temples, and all the hatred that a child can feel concentrated in my heart.
    • Ch. 21
  • Literature is my Utopia. Here I am not disfranchised. No barrier of the senses shuts me out from the sweet, gracious discourse of my book friends. They talk to me without embarrassment or awkwardness. The things I have learned and the things I have been taught seem of ridiculously little importance compared with their "large loves and heavenly charities."
    • Ch. 21
  • If it is true that the violin is the most perfect of musical instruments, then Greek is the violin of human thought.
    • Part II: Letters (1887 - 1901) TO MRS. LAURENCE HUTTON Wrentham, February 20, 1898.

Optimism (1903)

If I am happy in spite of my deprivations, if my happiness is so deep that it is a faith, so thoughtful that it becomes a philosophy of life, — if, in short, I am an optimist, my testimony to the creed of optimism is worth hearing.
  • No matter how dull, or how mean, or how wise a man is, he feels that happiness is his indisputable right.
  • It is curious to observe what different ideals of happiness people cherish, and in what singular places they look for this well-spring of their life. Many look for it in the hoarding of riches, some in the pride of power, and others in the achievements of art and literature; a few seek it in the exploration of their own minds, or in search for knowledge.
  • Most people measure their happiness in terms of physical pleasure and material possession. Could they win some visible goal which they have set on the horizon, how happy they could be! Lacking this gift or that circumstance, they would be miserable. If happiness is to be so measured, I who cannot hear or see have every reason to sit in a corner with folded hands and weep. If I am happy in spite of my deprivations, if my happiness is so deep that it is a faith, so thoughtful that it becomes a philosophy of life, — if, in short, I am an optimist, my testimony to the creed of optimism is worth hearing.
Once I knew the depth where no hope was, and darkness lay on the face of all things. Then love came and set my soul free...
  • Once I knew the depth where no hope was, and darkness lay on the face of all things. Then love came and set my soul free. Once I knew only darkness and stillness. Now I know hope and joy. Once I fretted and beat myself against the wall that shut me in. Now I rejoice in the consciousness that I can think, act and attain heaven. My life was without past or future; death, the pessimist would say, "a consummation devoutly to be wished." 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. Night fled before the day of thought, and love and joy and hope came up in a passion of obedience to knowledge. Can anyone who escaped such captivity, who has felt the thrill and glory of freedom, be a pessimist?
  • It is a mistake always to contemplate the good and ignore the evil, because by making people neglectful it lets in disaster. There is a dangerous optimism of ignorance and indifference.
  • Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it. My optimism, then, does not rest on the absence of evil, but on a glad belief in the preponderance of good and a willing effort always to cooperate with the good, that it may prevail. I try to increase the power God has given me to see the best in everything and every one, and make that Best a part of my life.
  • I, too, can work, and because I love to labor with my head and my hands, I am an optimist in spite of all. I used to think I should be thwarted in my desire to do something useful. But I have found out that though the ways in which I can make myself useful are few, yet the work open to me is endless.
  • I understand how it was possible for Spinoza to find deep and sustained happiness when he was excommunicated, poor, despised and suspected alike by Jew and Christian; not that the kind world of men ever treated me so, but that his isolation from the universe of sensuous joys is somewhat analogous to mine. He loved the good for its own sake. Like many great spirits he accepted his place in the world, and confided himself childlike to a higher power, believing that it worked through his hands and predominated in his being. He trusted implicitly, and that is what I do. Deep, solemn optimism, it seems to me, should spring from this firm belief in the presence of God in the individual; not a remote, unapproachable governor of the universe, but a God who is very near every one of us, who is present not only in earth, sea and sky, but also in every pure and noble impulse of our hearts, 'the source and centre of all minds, their only point of rest.'
To know the history of philosophy is to know that the highest thinkers of the ages, the seers of the tribes and the nations, have been optimists...
  • To know the history of philosophy is to know that the highest thinkers of the ages, the seers of the tribes and the nations, have been optimists. The growth of philosophy is the story of man's spiritual life.
Men study the human soul with sympathy, and there enters into their hearts a new reverence for that which is unseen...
  • The highest result of education is tolerance. Long ago men fought and died for their faith; but it took ages to teach them the other kind of courage, — the courage to recognize the faiths of their brethren and their rights of conscience. Tolerance is the first principal of community; it is the spirit which conserves the best that all men think.
  • I see the clouds part slowly, and I hear a cry of protest against the bigot. The restraining hand of tolerance is laid upon the inquisitor, and the humanist utters a message of peace to the persecuted. Instead of the cry, "Burn the heretic!" men study the human soul with sympathy, and there enters into their hearts a new reverence for that which is unseen.
The idea of brotherhood redawns upon the world with a broader significance than the narrow association of members in a sect or creed...
  • The idea of brotherhood redawns upon the world with a broader significance than the narrow association of members in a sect or creed; and thinkers of great soul like Lessing challenge the world to say which is more godlike, the hatred and tooth-and-nail grapple of conflicting religions, or sweet accord and mutual helpfulness. Ancient prejudice of man against his brother-man wavers and retreats before the radiance of a more generous sentiment, which will not sacrifice men to forms, or rob them of the comfort and strength they find in their own beliefs. The heresy of one age becomes the orthodoxy of the next. Mere tolerance has given place to a sentiment of brotherhood between sincere men of all denominations.
  • The test of all beliefs is their practical effect in life. If it be true that optimism compels the world forward, and pessimism retards it, then it is dangerous to propagate a pessimistic philosophy.
  • Let pessimism once take hold of the mind, and life is all topsy-turvy, all vanity and vexation of spirit. There is no cure for individual or social disorder, except in forgetfulness and annihilation. "Let us eat, drink and be merry," says the pessimist, "for to-morrow we die." If I regarded my life from the point of view of the pessimist, I should be undone. I should seek in vain for the light that does not visit my eyes and the music that does not ring in my ears. I should beg night and day and never be satisfied. I should sit apart in awful solitude, a prey to fear and despair. But since I consider it a duty to myself and to others to be happy, I escape a misery worse than any physical deprivation.
  • Who shall dare let his incapacity for hope or goodness cast a shadow upon the courage of those who bear their burdens as if they were privileges?
  • We have found that our great philosophers and our great men of action are optimists. So, too, our most potent men of letters have been optimists in their books and in their lives. No pessimist ever won an audience commensurately wide with his genius, and many optimistic writers have been read and admired out of all measure to their talents, simply because they wrote of the sunlit side of life.
Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement; nothing can be done without hope.
  • Every optimist moves along with progress and hastens it, while every pessimist would keep the worlds at a standstill. The consequence of pessimism in the life of a nation is the same as in the life of the individual. Pessimism kills the instinct that urges men to struggle against poverty, ignorance and crime, and dries up all the fountains of joy in the world.
  • Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement; nothing can be done without hope.
  • I believe it is a sacred duty to encourage ourselves and others; to hold the tongue from any unhappy word against God's world, because no man has any right to complain of a universe which God made good, and which thousands of men have striven to keep good. I believe we should so act that we may draw nearer and more near the age when no man shall live at his ease while another suffers. These are the articles of my faith, and there is yet another on which all depends — to bear this faith above every tempest which overfloods it, and to make it a principal in disaster and through affliction. Optimism is the harmony between man's spirit and of God pronouncing His works good.

Three Days to See (1933)

  • Recently I was visited by a very good friend who had just returned from a long walk in the woods, and I asked her what she had observed. “Nothing in particular,” she replied. I might have been incredulous had I not been accustomed to such responses, for long ago I became convinced that the seeing see little.
    How was it possible, I asked myself, to walk for an hour through the woods and see nothing worthy of note? I who cannot see find hundreds of things to interest me through mere touch. I feel the delicate symmetry of a leaf. I pass my hands lovingly about the smooth skin of a silver birch, or the rough, shaggy bark of a pine. In spring I touch the branches of trees hopefully in search of a bud, the first sign of awakening Nature after her winter’s sleep. I feel the delightful, velvety texture of a flower, and discover its remarkable convolutions; and something of the miracle of Nature is revealed to me.

The Simplest Way to be Happy (1933)

A happy life consists not in the absence, but in the mastery of hardships.
  • Happiness is the final and perfect fruit of obedience to the laws of life.
  • A happy life consists not in the absence, but in the mastery of hardships.
  • It all comes to this: the simplest way to be happy is to do good.
  • If we spend the time we waste in sighing for the perfect golden fruit in fulfilling the conditions of its growth, happiness will come, must come. It is guaranteed in the very laws of the universe. If it involves some chastening and renunciation, well, the fruit will be all the sweeter for this touch of holiness.
  • 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.

Misattributed

  • I am only one, but I am one. I can not do everything, but I can do something. I must not fail to do the something that I can do.
    • Edward Everett Hale in Ten Times One is Ten (1870). Keller and Hale were quite close, letters to Hale can be found in her youthful autobiography The Story of My Life (1902). In 1910 Keller dedicated her poem "The Song of the Stone Wall" to Hale who had died in 1909.

Quotations about Keller

Her spirit will endure as long as man can read and stories can be told of the woman who showed the world there are no boundaries to courage and faith. ~ US Senator J. Lister Hill
  • In this child I have seen more of the Divine than has been manifest in anyone I met before.
  • She will live on, one of the few, the immortal names not born to die. Her spirit will endure as long as man can read and stories can be told of the woman who showed the world there are no boundaries to courage and faith.
  • The two greatest characters in the 19th century are Napoleon and Helen Keller. Napoleon tried to conquer the world by physical force and failed. Helen tried to conquer the world by power of mind — and succeeded!
  • You are a wonderful creature — the most wonderful in the world.
  • No history of the world can be complete which does not mention Mary Helen Keller... whose overcoming of her blindness and deafness were arguably victories more important than those of Alexander the Great, because they have implications still for every living person.
    • Theodore Zeldin in An Intimate History of Humanity (1994) This quote seems to obviously refer to Helen Adams Keller, but why he refers to her as "Mary Helen Keller" is not clear.

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Simple English

File:Helen
Helen Keller

Helen Keller was an American writer and speaker. She was born in Tuscumbia, Alabama in 1880. When she was nineteen months old she became sick and lost her eyesight and hearing.

When Helen was seven years old, her family decided to find a teacher for her. They wrote to Michael Anegnos, who was the director of the Perkins Institute and Asylum for the Blind. They asked him to help them find a teacher for their daughter. He wrote to them and told them that he knew a young teacher and her name was Anne Sullivan. Anne traveled to Alabama to live with Helen’s family and to teach her. Anne went to live with the Keller family in March, 1887.

Anne helped Helen to learn how to communicate with other people. She taught her the names of things by writing the words on Helen’s hand. Helen learned her first word from Anne by putting Helen's hand under some water and type the word on her hand, making water her first word. In 1890, Helen’s family sent her to the Perkins Institute to learn how to speak and communicate. When she was nineteen years old, Helen went to Radcliffe College in Massachusetts. She graduated from Radcliffe in 1904. She was the first deaf and blind person to obtain a Bachelors of Arts degree.

In 1903, Helen wrote a book about her life. It was called The Story of My Life. She wrote twelve other books. Some of them became movies, like The Miracle Worker, made in 1962. She tried to help poor people and other blind people during her life. Helen traveled to over 39 countries with Anne to talk about her life and experiences. She also wrote a book about Anne Sullivan called Teacher. Helen Keller died on June 1, 1968, at Arcan Ridge in Connecticut.








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