Pictured above: Helen Keller (seated) with her teacher and friend Anne Sullivan (later Anne Sullivan Macy, although the marriage did not last), c 1910. Click on the photograph to enlarge.
“I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker.”
- Helen Keller
Helen Keller (1880-1968) contracted what is believed to have been scarlet fever or meningitis at the age of 19 months, which left her deaf and blind. On the recommendation of Alexander Graham Bell, who was working with deaf children, enquiries were made for a tutor when Helen was aged 6. The person appointed, Anne Sullivan, was aged 20 and was herself visually impaired. This was the beginning of a 49 year relationship that evolved into a governess role and eventually companion. The story of how Anne Sullivan taught Helen to comprehend the spelling of words, thereby identifying objects, by touches on her hand is told in the movie The Miracle Worker. Helen Keller went on to become a world famous speaker, author, a spokesperson for people with disabilities, a suffragist, pacifist, radical socialist, birth control supporter and advocate for workers’ rights. In 1964 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Johnson, one of the two highest US civilian honours.