Helen Keller

History of Psychology
History of Psychology
Helen Keller was blind, deaf and mute due to an early childhood illness and overcame these disabilities to become a major individual responsible for influencing how people viewed and treated those with disabilities. Keller was one of the 20th centuries leading humanitarians and founder of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Helen Keller

Keller’s early life as a child was one that her parents and family could not seem to help with. Being blind, deaf and mute they couldn’t control her and while they tried to treat her as one of their children, she acted more closely to a small wild animal. It wasn’t until they employed Anne Sullivan as a teacher that there seemed to be any progress. Sullivan used specialized sign language finger spelling communication methods that were proven to work for the deaf, combined with a lot of patience. Keller would throw wild tantrums when she couldn’t get her way and Sullivan was forced to arrange total isolation so that she could teach Keller. The success came through when Keller learned how to identify and spell the word ‘water’.

Helen Keller attended speech classes for the deaf in 1890 in Boston and then attended another school in New York to extend her academic studies and continue perfecting her communication efforts. By 1896, Helen was determined to attend college and she attended a preparation school, Cambridge School for Young Ladies. She was very focused on learning and getting a good education while she continued to practice her speech so that people could understand her.

Her story began to get a lot of attention and this included some famous celebrities. When Mark Twain, the famous author and celebrity met Keller he was so impressed that he introduced her to his friend and Standard Oil Executive, Henry H. Rogers. Rogers was also incredibly impressed with the drive and determination of this young woman that he agreed to pay her way to attend Radcliffe College. Anne Sullivan accompanied Keller to help her with interpretations and lectures and to assist in her studies.

Keller, by this point, was communicating in a number of ways: braille, touch-lip reading, finger spelling and typing. With the help of Sullivan and Sullivan’s future husband, they produced Keller’s first book “The Story of My Life”. She then graduated cum laude from Radcliffe and was 24 years old. Keller went to live with Anne and her husband and Anne continued to be devoted to Keller.

Keller began to be a celebrity of her own, giving presentations, lectures and sharing her story. She wanted to know as much about the world as possible but also became passionate about women’s suffrage, pacifism and birth control and got involved in many social and political issues. By 1915 she testified before Congress on improvement of treatment of blind people.

Helen Keller

The same year she co-founded Helen Keller International to help fight blindness due to malnutrition and disease. By 1920 she assisted in founding the ACLU. When the American Federation for the Blind was started in 1921, Keller joined and became an active participant to raise awareness and money for the cause.

Keller joined many organizations and helped those less fortunate using her celebrity status and her story of survival and determination. Sullivan remained with Keller for over forty nine years, working with her to help promote many of the causes. Keller held a number of important titles and posts in quite a few organizations that assisted those in need.