Helen Keller was born on 27th June, 1880 in Alabama. She was born a normal child, with the ability to hear and see. When she was just a 19 month old baby, she was diagnosed with an illness described by doctors as “an acute congestion of the stomach and the brain”. Later studies showed that it could have been meningitis or scarlet fever. The illness was a lot to take for a 19 month old infant, so it stripped her off of her basic senses of seeing and hearing. Luckily, her family cook’s 6 year old daughter understood Helen Keller’s signs and communicated with her, and by the age of 7, Helen had learned more than 60 signs to communicate with her family.
When Keller was 6, her mother, accompanied by her father, went to seek out a physician who treated such disabilities. The physician further referred her to Alexander Graham Bell. Yes, the inventor of telephone. He was teaching deaf children at the time. Bell further recommended them to Perkins Institute for the Blind, where Anne Sullivan was appointed her as Keller’s instructor. This relationship blossomed into a 49 year long companionship, when Sullivan died after falling into a coma.
Keller was born with a gift; the gift to communicate. As ironic as it may seem, Keller is still remembered as a world-famous speaker and author. She is respected, not only as an advocate for people with disabilities, but also as a suffragist, a pacifist, an opponent of Woodrow Wilson, a radical socialist and a birth control supporter. In 1915, she and George Kessler established the Helen Keller International (HKI) organization. The reason for this establishment is to research in vision, health and nutrition. In 1920, she helped in initiating the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Keller traveled a lot and she made trips to a number of countries with Sullivan, making several trips to Japan and becoming a favorite of the Japanese people. Keller met every U.S. President from Grover Cleveland to Lyndon B. Johnson and was friends with many famous people, including Alexander Graham Bell, Charlie Chaplin and Mark Twain.
Her day of birth is celebrated as Helen Keller Day in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. Jimmy Carter authorized this at federal level by presidential proclamation in 1980, the 100th anniversary of her birth. She was honored into the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame in 1971.