Changing the World

Best known for her incredible ability to overcome severe disabilities, Keller was blind and deaf, yet wrote 10 books and lectured around the world. Most of her books, including “The Story of My Life” (1902), and “Optimism” (1903) are autobiographical. Her work enabled her to establish a $2 million endowment for the American Foundation for the Blind. Keller worked to improve the treatment of the disabled, helping to remove them from asylums. Her relationship with her teacher, Anne Sullivan, was the subject of a play by William Gibson, “The Miracle Worker”, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1960 and was made into a movie that won two Academy Awards in 1962.

At age 19 months Keller was afflicted with an illness, possibly Scarlet Fever, that left her deaf, blind, and mute. At age 6 Alexander Graham Bell examined her and recommended a teacher, Anne Sullivan, at the Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston. She learned to read by feeling raised words on cardboard. She was taught to speak by Sarah Fuller of the Horace Mann School for the Deaf, where she also learned to lip-read by placing her fingers on the lips and throat of the speaker while the words were spelled out. Other schools followed, capped by four years at Radcliffe College from age 20 to 24 – she graduated with honors. Keller began her writing career with articles about blindness for women’s magazines like “Ladies Home Journal”, followed by general interest magazines. Her writing career spanned 55 years, from age 22 to age 77. Her well-documented struggles and triumphs had made her world famous long before she died, just prior to her 88th birthday.

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