Helen Keller had become deaf and blind at 19-months after contracting a fever. Helen Keller described March 3, 1887 as, “my soul’s birthday.”
“The most important day I remember in all my life is the one in which my teacher, Anne Mansfield Sullivan came to me,” Keller wrote in her autobiography, The Story of My Life (1903).
In her book Helen Keller describes the day Sullivan arrived. Helen stood on the porch of Ivy Green awaiting the arrival of an unknown guest.
“I felt approaching footsteps. I stretched out my hand as I supposed to my mother. Some one took it, and I was caught up and held close in the arms of her who had come to reveal all things to me, and, more than all things else, to love me."
The next day Sullivan began teaching Helen to communicate by signing letters of the alphabet into her hand. She signed the letters d-o-l-l into the young girl’s hand. Later in the spring at the well behind Ivy Green, Sullivan pumped water onto Helen’s hand while repeatedly signing the letters w-a-t-e-r into the other.
“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. I knew then that "w-a-t-e-r" meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free! There were barriers still, it is true, but barriers that could in time be swept away,” she wrote.
After one year Sullivan was reading into Helen’s hand The Iliad, The Odyssey and the great works of Shakespeare and the Bible.
In 1904, at age 24, Keller graduated from Radcliffe College, the first blind and deaf person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree.
Keller went on the become an advocate for people with disabilities, a staunch Socialists and a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union. Helen Keller died on June 1, 1968 aged 87, eighty-one years after the birth of her soul on March 3, 1887.
Please enjoy a slideshow of photos from Ivy Green below.