Helen Keller was the first deaf-blind person to ever achieve a bachelor of arts degree. A prolific author, she surmounted all obstacles and odds to become a leader in the field of literature, a lecturer and perhaps most importantly a political activist for women’s rights, and for people with disabilities.
Born in Alabama on 27 June 1880, Keller was a healthy child until the age of 19 months, when she was overcome by, what is now believed to have been scarlet fever. The ordeal left her both deaf and blind. However, she reinvented her ability to communicate over time, by developing signs with her siblings and ‘listening’ by feeling vibrations of approaching people around her.
Keller then studied at schools for the deaf and blind in Boston and New York, graduating from Radcliff College in 1904, at the age of 24. Her book ‘The Story of my Life’ was a huge success and remains a popular title in countries all around the world today.
Her early success gained her somewhat of a celebrity status, and she became a famous writer, producing countless articles and a number of notable books. She also appeared regularly on the lecturing circuit. In 1918 Hollywood created a biofilm named ‘Deliverance’ that dramatized her ordeal. She played herself.
Using her celebrity and warm character for the greater good, she then devoted much of her life to raising funds for the American Foundation for the Blind, and became a glowing role-model for people with disabilities all around the world. Over the years she made numerous speeches, raised huge sums of money and above all, bolstered the spirits and set an example for people with disabilities around the globe.
Keller passed peacefully in her sleep in 1968, just a few weeks before her 88th birthday. Despite her setbacks in life, she lived a full and inspiring one. To this day Keller serves as a great reminder of the strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity.