Finding Light in the Silent Darkness Around the world, many people take the simple things in life for granted. Many people do not realize how they are very fortunate to have that trait or item, until it is gone. People are involved in life-changing incidents; others tolerate the tragedies that interfere with their life. Often considered an example of strife is Helen Keller, who lost her vision and hearing when she was nineteen months old due to an illness. During her life, Keller became an author, traveler, and a public speaker, who met celebrities and created organization to help others with handicaps.
Keller was an important American figure because she triumphed over many obstacles to gain success, helped others that had disabilities, and learned how to communicate with people. Helen Keller was a person born with the ability to see and hear, until age two. Helen had not been born as a deaf and blind child but had been affected by an illness, which now is believed to have been either scarlet fever or meningitis. The illness did not stay with her for long but brought in deafness and blindness in her. As a child Helen could only communicate with the staff’s children, who understood her.
She was born on June 27, 1880 in Tuscumbia, Alabama. Today, her birthplace is known as Ivy Green because of the plants around the house. (Keller, 1-2) During her childhood, she imagined a world filled with light, where there were many objects to see and the sounds of life fill the air. However, she only thought of this wonderful world that she could not see or hear: “Of course my recollections of my early childhood are very indistinct. I have confused memories of long summer days filled with light, and the voices of birds inging in the clear sunshine. I seem to remember, as if it were yesterday, being lost in a great green place, where there were beautiful flowers and fragrant trees”( Keller and Shattuck, 164) Many people understood that blindness and deafness was a terrible thing, but never experience what Keller had first-hand. Helen Keller was one of the first blind and deaf people to receive a Bachelor’s degree. When she was a child, she received education from Anne Mansfield Sullivan. She was fourteen years older Helen, and she suffered from vision problems.
Anne underwent many operations before her sight was partially restored. Anne began teaching Helen by manually signing into the child’s hand to demonstrate the connection between objects and letters. Helen quickly learned to form letters and unknowingly spelled words. (Keller, 297-319) Keller wrote about her lessons with Sullivan and describes that she “did nothing but explore with my hands and learn the name of every object that I touched; and the more I handled things and learned their names and uses, the more joyous and confident grew my sense of kinship with the rest of the world. (McGinnity, Seymour-Ford and Andries, 2004)
Helen mastered the alphabet, both manual and print for blind readers, and gained skills in reading and writing. In 1898, she entered the Cambridge School for Young Ladies to prepare for Radcliffe College. During the 1900s, she entered Radcliffe and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1904. Eventually, she pursued a career in literature and wrote over 475 pieces on various topics, such as faith, blindness prevention, and atomic energy. Helen used a braille typewriter to prepare her manuscripts and copied them on a regular typewriter. (McGinnity, Seymour-Ford and Andries, 2004)
Although Keller did not have any children or husbands, she had a lot of family members. On her father’s side, he descended from a Swiss immigrant named Casper Keller. Casper settled in Maryland and had a son, which was Helen Keller’s grandfather. Her grandfather settled on large tracts of land in Alabama, who became a plantation owner. Her grandmother was the daughter of Alexander Moore and Robert E. Lee’s cousin. Finally, her father was an editor for the Tuscumbia North Alabamian and a Confederate Army’s captain during the Civil War. He married Kate Adams, which was his second wife and Helen Keller’s mother.
On her mother’s side, Helen’s grandparents were Charles Adams and Lucy Everett. Charles Adams was a Confederate colonel in Arkansas during the American Civil War. She had three brothers named James, Phillips, and William; she also had a sister named Mildred. Helen Keller treasured her family as they provided a link to the outside world; her world was silent, aimless, dayless. (Keller, 3-5) Helen Keller is known for many achievements, such as overcoming her handicaps, completing her education, becoming a political figure, being involved with literature and receiving the presidential medal of freedom award.
Through hard work and education, Keller wrote many books, used her writing to communicate to the rest of the world the importance of underdogs, advocated for women’s suffrage, and spoke for people with sight loss. Keller developed over the years and: “Having developed skills never approached by any similarly disabled person, Keller began to write about blindness, a subject then taboo in women’s magazines because of the relationship of many cases to venereal disease. Edward W. Bok accepted her articles for the Ladies’ Home Journal, and other major magazines—The Century, McClure’s, and The Atlantic Monthlyfollowed suit. (“Helen Keller”, 2016)
She traveled the country; she came before state and national legislatures, which brought attention to blindness and prevention measures. However, Keller could not accomplish these achievements without Anne Sullivan. Anne Sullivan was an inspiration to Keller because she could relate to her and learn many things from her. Her parents were an inspiration because they supported her decisions and gave her the education to become successful. Georgin describes that Keller”… epresents Sullivan as her savior who first liberated her from darkness and silence through the gift of language and then championed her cause against individuals and institutions that stood in the way of her educational goals. ” (Kleege, 2000) She created an organization to help others with vision loss, which led to receiving the presidential freedom award from Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. (McGinnity, SeymourFord and Andries, 2004)
A memorable quote from Helen Keller is “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched they must be felt with the heart. (Keller, 347) This quote shows that ideals and emotions are more valuable than physical items. Its purpose is to feel the beauty, to allow life to merge with you, and make a difference in how you see, hear, or know something. Helen was important to other people with disabilities because she inspired people and showed that people deserved respect. She supported various deaf-blind programs. Helen inspired people with disabilities due to her persistence and kind heart. (Keller and Shattuck, 127-146) Keller encountered many hardships at a young age, such as deaf and blindness.
The consequences were being cut off from the world and a permanent handicap. Although Keller endured these hardships, she overcame them with great difficulty. She learned many life lessons due to these experiences with her family, friends, and teachers. When Anne Sullivan came to her, Keller misbehaved and was physically violent. Eventually, she learned that it’s okay to need help from others. Also, she learned to embrace her differences through her political and literary works.
Sarah Mills wrote that “Keller reminds us that the only person we are in control of is ourselves, and it is up to us to accomplish our goals. ” (Mills, 2015), which is a clear example of individualism. A third lesson she learned was the importance of community during her visit to the Perkins Institute for the Blind, where she found many friends similar to her. The greatest thing that came from Helen’s disabilities was that she stood as a symbol of hope with that condition. Throughout the world, she became a source of hope for families in her situation and their children.
She changed the way most people viewed blind people, deaf people, and women during her time. Helen’s political campaign began in America’s industrial phase. Since she was a woman, she was unable to freely express herself, so she became a suffragette. In addition to her other achievements, she founded Helen Keller International, which is one of the world’s international non-profit organizations dedicated to preventing blindness and reducing malnutrition; this organization still strives towards a better future for people today.
Helen Keller suffered a stroke in 1960, when she withdrew from public life before her death on June 1, 1968 in Westport, Connecticut at the age of 87. She died of natural causes; she basically died in her sleep. She survived with her brother, Phillips, who lived in Dallas, Texas, and her sister, Mildred, who lived in Montgomery, Alabama. After private cremation, a funeral service was held at the National Cathedral in Washington on June 5, 1968. Although she died, her organization and contributions to society live on today.
I admire this icon because she strived to help the world through her many efforts. Through her beliefs, she abolished boundaries and spoke freely as a woman during a difficult era to achieve what was best for people. I also support her stance on education about deaf-blinds and world peace. Helen Keller made an incredible impact on the world that will never be forgotten. There is nothing that I dislike about Helen Keller. She was determined to learn how to communicate with others through sign language and writing. She also had respect for others around her with handicaps and hardships.
Although she did not respect Sullivan at first, she grew to like her and idolized Sullivan for her intelligence and similar life scenarios. Throughout her life, Keller overcame many obstacles to gain success, helped others, and learned how to communicate with them. Her perseverance allowed her to prevail over the hardships of blindness and deafness. She proved people that determination, hope, and commitment can fulfill their goals. The most powerful acts that we support seem small, but important because they make everyone more indispensable.