Dunlap High School
Instructor: Chris Friedman
HELEN KELLER: INFLUENCES AND CONTRIBUTIONS
Helen Keller was one of the most important women of all times. Anyone who has some knowledge about her is definitely impressed by her achievements. What made Helen Keller more impressive is that she achieved her goals while being both blind and deaf. It is easy to imagine how tough life would without sight and hearing. But Helen Keller, guided by Ann Sullivan, did learn to communicate and has given solutions to many of the world’s problems. After having the door of communication open for her and realizing the conditions of the unfortunate, Helen Keller showed people what handicapped people can do and also opened doorways to the people in need.
Learning to communicate not only brought Helen Keller a desire to be educated, but it also helped her learn of the unfortunate people which she was greatly influenced by. As her first life’s achievement, Helen Keller understood words as being means of communication; this gave her a strong desire to learn more about the world. According to Stoddard, Helen Keller, after learning the connection of words to the real world, wrote later in her life, “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” (Stoddard 237). As Richards states, Helen Keller went though a great deal of tough times before Anne Sullivan came to her life to teach her to live her life. On her ninth month, Keller lost her sight and hearing because of an unknown illness. Keller recalled later that she soon got use to the dark and silence. However, Keller’s intelligent and curious mind did not stop her from wanting to learn. She felt every object around her and tried to learn as much as she could. She even learned to communicate using simple signs. By touching others’ lips, she felt them communicating with each other (talking). Keller, not being able to talk like others, got pretty angry. As she grew, she became more of a wild animal. Unable to control the child Keller’s parents took her to Alexander G. Bell, who invented the telephone and helped the deaf. Bells told them that Helen Keller was intelligent and wanted to learn everything she was able to. Bells asked Keller’s parents to take Keller to Perkins Institution for the Blind, which served as a school fro the blind. Anne Sullivan was sent from Perkins to help Helen Keller learn to communicate. At first, Miss Sullivan tried teaching Keller words by having her hold objects on one of her hands and spelling the word corresponding to the object on her other hand. Although Keller found this quite interesting, she did not quite understand that those words actually stood for the objects she was holding. One day Miss. Sullivan took her to a water pump and had the water spill over one of her hands while spelling W-A-T-E-R on her other hand. At this point Keller truly understood what words really meant. She stood like a statue, shocked of what she just discovered. Keller asked names of everything she touched to Miss. Sullivan and ran around with excitement as she learned. She soon started to build her vocabulary, and within weeks, she was able to form sentences. Miss Sullivan taught her to read raised alphabets and Braille letters. She then taught Keller to write both in normal print and in Braille. Miss Sullivan continued to write to the Perkins school about Keller’s progress, and the school soon offered Keller to be a student at that school without any charge (Richards, 16, 17, 23, 33, 38, 40-43). Now that Ann Sullivan had opened the door that was locked for Helen Keller, she was ready, ready to enter her lifelong adventure with Miss. Sullivan.
The unfortunate deaf-blind who could not afford to be helped greatly influenced Helen Keller to help them cross their struggling path. According to Paquette, as time went by, and getting all these benefits, Helen Keller began thinking about how blessed she was. She had wealthy parents who were able to give the best care and education. She knew, however, that there were people out there who had the same or similar problems as her but unable to afford to be helped or be able to pay to get education (Paquette). It is said in Richards’s work, that Helen Keller, who became filled with love and passion, learned of Tommy Stringer, who was deaf-mute and blind. He lived in a poorhouse and could not afford to go to Perkins. Helen Keller felt hurt for this poor boy, and she helped Stringer enter the school by public funding and her personal requests (Richards, 50). Helen Keller began learning about people in need around her, and she knew she needed to help as much as she could.
Helen Keller proved people of the world that being disabled does not mean being incapable, and she devoted much of her life in helping and cheering others in need. Since early in her life, Helen Keller showed others that people with disabilities may do anything a normal person. According what “The Life of Helen Keller” states, after going into Perkins, the school published articles about Helen Keller, which made Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan famous to the public. Helen soon learned to understand others when they spoke by feeling their lip movements and the vocal vibrations. By going to Wright-Humason school for the deaf, Keller soon was able to speak, though her words were not perfectly understood by people not close to her. It was at this time when Helen Keller went to CambridgeSchool for Ladies in 1896 with Sullivan and to RadcliffCollege in 1900. Keller wrote her autobiography, The Story of My Life both in normal print and in Braille, which became a classic and was published in over 50 languages. As the first deaf-blind person, Helen Keller received her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1904. Keller and Sullivan started toured the world with Keller lecturing on her beliefs, experiences and answering many of the public’s questions. As the interests in the lectures faded away, Keller and Sullivan played shows to the public about Helen Keller’s first understanding of the word “water”, which also became quite popular. This event later was made into film, plays and even TV shows (The life). According to Bonnici, Helen Keller Also learned French and German in her lifetime, she wrote 14 books and hundreds of articles, she had experiences of riding a horse, learned to cook and fly a small airplane (Bonnici). All these that Helen Keller have done not only proves that handicapped people are capable of doing great things, but also it clearly shows that disabled people can achieve far more beyond many normal people do.
Helen Keller helped the people in need by encouraging others, her own efforts, and by cheering and influencing the people in need. Paquette states that Helen Keller spoke for justice and against war. She fought for women’s rights, visited injured soldiers. She founded and donated many organizations which include American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) which still exist today (Paquette). According to “The Life of Helen Keller”, Helen Keller and Ann Sullivan moved to Forest Hills in New York in 1918. There she made her base for collecting money for AFB. Keller worked determinedly to make life for the deaf and blind easier. During this time, when Keller and Sullivan were touring, Sullivan became ill. Thus their secretary, Polly Thomson took over taking care of Keller and touring with her. As they toured, they spent a lot of time raising money for the people who were blind. She lectured and answered questions about her political views. After World War II, Keller and Thomson traveled the world and visited many countries to raise money for the American Foundation for the Overseas Blind (The life). Helen Keller had a dream to help people in need, and she worked hard to make it come true.
Helen Keller overcame her obstacles and helped others overcome theirs. She is an inspirable person and an example of one who can work to make dreams come true. Her contributions are a major factor for the great developments of the help available for the disabled today. She should remain a treasure for the remaining of time.
Bonnici, Jacqueline. “Deaf and blind-not dumb! (Biography).” Appleseeds 9.8 (April 2007): 2(3). Student Edition. Gale. DunlapHigh School Library/Technology. 29 Aug 2007 <http://find.galegroup.com/ittx/start.do?prodld=stom>.
“The Life of Helen Keller.” RNIB Supporting blind and partially sighted people. 17 Jan. 2007. RNIB Supporting blind and partially sighted people. 21 Aug. 2007 <http://www.rnib.org.uk/xpedio/groups/public/documents/PublicWebsite/public_keller.hcsp>.
Paquette, Joan. “Helen Keller gets active.” Appleseeds 9.8 (April 2007). Student Edition. Gale. DunlapHigh School Library/Technology. 30 Aug. 2007 <http://find.galegroup.com/itx/ start.do?prodld=STOM>.
Richards Norman. Helen Keller. Chicago, IL: Childrens Press, 1968.
Stoddard, Hope. Famous American Women. New York, NY: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1970.