Helen Keller was an American author, political activist and campaigner for deaf and blind charities.
Keller became deaf and blind at 19 months old after an illness, thought to be scarlet fever or meningitis. Keller’s inability to communicate lead to the belief that she was badly behaved. When she was 7 she was sent to see an eye, ear and nose specialist in Baltimore, who referred to her Alexander Graham Bell. At the time he was investigating deafness and sound. Bell put them in touch with the Perkins Institute for the Blind. Anne Sullivan, a former student became her teacher and tamed her unruly behaviour. Keller later said that the day that Sullivan came to her was the day her life changed.
Keller was determined to go to college and became the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree after attending Radcliffe College. Through her education and support from Sullivan, Keller was able to learn braille, to speak and practise lip-reading and later, to write with a braille typewriter.
Keller wrote a number of books and essays including her autobiography ‘The Story of My Life‘ which detailed her struggles to overcome her disabilities. She also wrote about political issues and was a member of the American Socialist party, she was a pacifist and wanted to see a airer distribution of income and an end to the inequality of Capitalist society.
Keller spent years fundraising for deaf and blind charities, as well as completeting research and giving speeches. From 1918 she worked exclusively for the American Foundation for the Blind and the American Foundation for the Overseas Blind, which is now called Helen Keller Worldwide. She fought for the blind people who were forced into poor living and working conditions, many of whom were badly educated and living in asylums. Keller’s public profile helped to de-stigmatise blind and deaf people, which along with her activism affected major change in the lives of those with sensory loss. Keller recieved dozens of awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor that an American civilian can receive.