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Celebrating Helen Keller Day on June 27

On June 27, we will celebrate the life and achievements of Helen Keller. Keller, who was blind and deaf, became a distinguished author, public speaker, and advocate for the deaf and blind throughout the 20th century. Keller was the first blind and deaf woman to graduate from college in the United States. She graduated with honors from Radcliffe College in 1904. 

Shortly after birth, Keller was diagnosed with a type of bacterial meningitis. Later believed to be scarlet fever, Keller was unable to hear, speak, or see. Her family sought the guidance of famous scientist Alexander Graham Bell. Graham Bell referred Keller to the Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston. There, she learned how to read and write from Anne Sullivan. It was originally believed no one could teach Keller how to read, write, and speak. Sullivan, who was visually impaired herself, taught Keller through Braille and hand signals. Under Sullivan’s guidance, Keller was able to learn how to speak, read, and write through touch. 

While in college, Keller became an author. She published “The Story of My Life” in 1902. This book was an autobiography of her early life learning how to read and write with Sullivan. “The Story of My Life” was the first of Keller’s 14 books she wrote. She was personal friends with fellow author Mark Twain before his passing. As a public speaker, she also presented nearly 500 speeches. She spoke on topics like blindness prevention, birth control, fascism, and atomic energy. 

Long after Sullivan taught Keller how to read and write in the 19th century, the duo linked back up in the 1920s. As vaudeville acts were popular at the time, the two performed together to raise money and educate audiences about Keller’s life. Their performances were very popular, helped Anne and Helen earn an income, and the two performed across the country. Most performances featured Anne asking Helen questions about her life, beliefs, and general interests. Helen was known for poking fun at politicians with witty and funny answers in reply. 

Helen Keller lived to be 87 years old. She passed away in 1968. Throughout her life and after her passing, Helen received numerous awards and recognitions, including: 

  • 1936 – Theodore Roosevelt Distinguished Service Medal 
  • 1953 – Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize 
  • 1999 – Named to Time Magazine’s 100 Most Important Figures of the 20th Century 
  • 2006 – Presidential Proclamation of Helen Keller Day for June 27 

Those interested in learning more about Helen Keller’s life can click the resources below: 

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