Seeing Ivy Green
The Transformation of Helen Keller
Contrary to popular belief, Helen Keller was not born deaf, nor blind. She was born with the ability to see and hear perfectly well. It wasn’t until slightly later on in her life that she lost her ability to see and hear (and even then, she wasn’t completely blind). Therefore, she had to undertake some serious transformations, mentally and physically.
“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart.” ~ Helen Keller
Helen Keller was born in Tusculum, Alabama on June 27th in 1880. 19 months after her birth, she developed a very severe childhood illness, causing her to go deaf and blind. Due to her lack of certain abilities, she was unable to properly communicate with most of her family. Some even considered her to be ill mannered, for example, while eating from other’s plates with her fingers at the dinner table.
She, of course, could not go her whole life stealing food from other people’s plates. She would need some help in order to better her communication skills. She was taken to see Alexander Graham Bell (yes, the inventor of the first telephone), who was at the time investigating issues of deafness and sound. While at the Perkins Institute for the Blind, Keller was put in touch with Anne Sullivan, who would later become her communication’s teacher.
“The most important day I remember in all my life is the one on which my teacher, Anne Mansfield Sullivan, came to me. I am filled with wonder when I consider the immeasurable contrasts between the two lives which it connects. It was the third of March, 1887, three months before I was seven years old.”
Towards the beginning of her lessons, Keller got frustrated easily, seeing as how she was not able to understand the hand signals Sullivan was using. However, things changed when Sullivan poured water over Keller’s hand, then spelling out the word in her palm. This helped ease her troubles and learn how to use this new system.
Despite her disability, she was able to take on an education and become a successful writer and speaker. In 1903, she published her autobiography ‘The Story of My Life’, recounting her struggles throughout her life. This was not the only thing she wrote, though. Keller also wrote on political issues, and was a strong supporter of the American Socialist Party, later on becoming a member herself.
In the beginning, Keller had to learn, no matter how trying, to communicate, and how to transform her life in order to live comfortably, even with her disabilities. I will leave you with my favorite quote from Helen herself:
“I seldom think about my limitations, and they never make me sad. Perhaps there is just a touch of yearning at times; but it is vague, like a breeze among flowers.”