Helen Keller was born in 1880 at Tuscumbia, a little town in northern Alabama (USA). When she was only nineteen months the fever had gone, it was found that the child had become blind, deaf and dumb.
Helen’s parents were very sad but they didn’t lose heart. They took the advice of many god doctors. Helen showed eagerness to learn. She started learning to talk by signs. A shake of the head meant `no’ and a nod meant `yes’. A pull and push meant `go’. A famous doctor, Alexander bell, suggested that Helen should have a teacher who could stay with her and teach her. So Helen’s parents wrote to several persons. At last they were able to get a very capable teacher for their daughter. She was miss Anne Mansfield Sullivan who was an expert in teaching the mind.
Miss Sullivan had herself been blind for a time, but luckily she had recovered her eyesight, though partly. Her experience of blindness had given her much sympathy for blind children. She had determined to help at least one blind child to have the benefits of education. And she spent her whole life to fulfill this mission. For Helen, she came as the light of her life.
Miss Sullivan’s job was not an easy one because Helen was wild by nature. She was almost impossible to control. She would bite and hit anyone who went near her. She would scream at the top of her voice. Anyone with such a difficult pupil would have given up. But Miss Sullivan was a patient teacher. She proved herself equal to the task. She worked hard day and night with her difficult pupil. At last her patience and hard work bore fruit. Helen later wrote about her: `she has not bad a holiday for twelve years. Think of it. All that time she has been the sunshine of my life.’
Miss Sullivan began with the teaching of words in the finger alphabet. She held Helen’s fingers lightly in her hand and made the signs. Different positions of the fingers stood for different letters. The first word she taught Helen was d-o-1-1.
At first Helen did not know that she was spelling a word with her fingers. She didn’t even know that there was any such thing as words. She was simply making the signs with Miss Sullivan’s help. When Helen succeeded in making the letters correctly, her heart was filled with pleasure. Later she learnt many other words such as pin, hat, cup, father, mother, and teacher. In three months she was able to learn three hundred words.
Next, Helen learnt to read through the Braille system. Her teacher gave her pieces of cardboard on which there were words in the form of raised dots. Helen learnt to read by feeling these dots with her fingers. She quickly learnt to read words and sentences. In course of time, she was able to read books in Braille.
Helen Keller’s fever had left her dumb also. But she was taught to speak by the `lip-reading’ system. It was an expert named Miss Sarah Fuller who gave Helen lessons in the lip-reading system. She made Helen feel the position of her own lips and tongue when she made a sound. Helen imitated each one of the positions and, after a few lessons, she was able to speak. The first sentence she spoke was: `it is warm’. Miss Sullivan, too, helped Helen in learning to speak by the lip-reading system.
Helen joined a school in which normal students studied. In July 1897 she passed her high school examination in Arithmetic, Latin Grammar and English literature from school, she went to collage. Here too she studied with other normal student. She took her first degree in four years like any other collage student. Later, she took degrees in many other subjects also.
Helen Keller not only made a name for her but also helped the blind poor.