Helen Keller

Helen Keller (1880–1968).
Optimism, an Essay.
New York: T. Y. Crowell & Company, 1903. (27884)

Helen Keller (1880–1968).
The Story of My Life, by Helen Keller, with her Letters (1887–1901).
New York: Grosset and Dunlap, [1905]. (HV1624.K4 A15 1905x)

Helen Keller, whose life story brought inspiration to millions, lost her sight and hearing during an illness when she was nineteen months old. Her parents, living in Tuscumbia, Alabama, were able to communicate with her only vaguely through physical contact. Encouraged by the success of Laura Bridgman (1829–1889), a blind and deaf girl who had learned to communicate at the Perkins School for the Blind in Boston, the Kellers enrolled their daughter at that institution in 1886. There Anne Sullivan (1866–1936) taught young Keller to recognize that specific physical sensations “written” on her hands signified the names for distinct objects. Keller quickly absorbed the meaning of language and amazed all with her ability to communicate, speak, and write. Keller published The Story of My Life in 1903 and earned her Bachelor’s Degree from Radcliffe College in 1904. Assisted by Polly Thomson, her secretary, Keller worked for the remainder of her long life as an author and lecturer, both to improve the lives of people with disabilities and to support civil liberties around the world.

Exhibited are two of Helen Keller’s twelve published books. Optimism, an Essay expresses the author’s outlook as a world citizen with minimal discussion of her own physical abilities. The frontispiece is a photograph of the author in academic cap and gown, taken in the year prior to her graduation from Radcliffe. Keller’s most popular and enduring book was The Story of My Life, edited by John Albert Macy (Anne Sullivan’s husband). The first two sentences exemplify the sensitivity and beauty of Keller’s writing: “It is with a kind of fear that I begin to write the history of my life. I have, as it were, a superstitious hesitation in lifting the veil that clings about my childhood like a golden mist.”

Listen as curator Dr. Eric White talks about Helen Keller during a tour.

<a href="/items/browse?advanced%5B0%5D%5Belement_id%5D=50&advanced%5B0%5D%5Btype%5D=is+exactly&advanced%5B0%5D%5Bterms%5D=27884">27884</a> <a href="/items/browse?advanced%5B0%5D%5Belement_id%5D=50&advanced%5B0%5D%5Btype%5D=is+exactly&advanced%5B0%5D%5Bterms%5D=HV1624.K4+A15+1905x">HV1624.K4 A15 1905x</a>