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shim Brief Biography
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Helen Adams Keller

(June 27, 1880 – June 1, 1968) was a deaf and blind American author, activist and lecturer.

Before she was 2 years old, Helen Keller lost her sight and hearing after a high fever. She was often frustrated and the family spoiled her considerably, though until Dr. Alexander Graham Bell urged them to find a teacher from the Perkins Institute for the Blind, she was unable to communicate.

Anne Sullivan was that teacher. The next events are well-known: Helen Keller learning to understand language through the combination of water from a pump on one hand and the spelling of "water" with the manual alphabet into her other hand. Helen Keller said later, "That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free!"
Helen Keller progressed with language quickly under Anne Sullivan's tutorage. She learned Braille at the Perkins Institution and learned to speak at the Horace Mann School for the Deaf. Helen Keller went on to study at the Wright-Humason School for the Deaf, the Cambridge School for Young Ladies, and to Radcliffe College, from which she graduated in 1904 with high honors.

For the rest of her life, Helen Keller worked for improving education for the blind, deaf, and mute. 

She also became a well-known author. She wrote a lengthy autobiography called The Story of My Life published in 1903 (when she was only 21 years old). In 1960, her book Light in my Darkness was published in which she advocated the teachings of the Swedish scientist and theologian Emanuel Swedenborg. She wrote a total of eleven books, and authored numerous articles.

 


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   Helen Keller's Book - Light in my Darkness
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shim It would be difficult to find in all the treasure-house of biography a life story more thrilling, dramatic and fascinating than that of Helen Keller. She herself has told it in its more outward aspects in previous books. Here she takes up her inner world and explains how her spirit found itself, searched for adequate interpretation of life and found faith and hope and serenity. In his foreword Mr. Sperry says that the book is the outcome of the many questions that had been asked Miss Keller in public about her religion, which she could then answer only briefly. These were so frequent that finally she was asked to explain in a book what her religious ideals are and where she found them.

Miss Keller, a Christian, makes it clear that she is an ardent believer in the 'New Church' views of Christianity.  As a Swedenborgian (as the denomination is sometimes called), she looks upon Swedenborg's writings as being supplementary to and an explanation of the Bible. After describing the bewilderment and longing for something spiritually more satisfying than she had yet found, Miss Keller tells of her emotions when, in her middle teens, she began to read much of Swedenborg's works as had been put into Braille:

Here was a faith [she says] that emphasized what I felt so keenly -- the separateness between soul and body, between a realm I could picture as a whole and the chaos of fragmentary things and limited physical senses met at every turn . . . As I realized the meaning of what I read, my soul seemed to expand and gain confidence amid the difficulties which beset me. . . . Gradually I came to see that I could use the Bible, which had so baffled me, as an instrument for digging out precious truths, just as I could use my hindered, halting body for the high behests of my spirit. . . . So I grew to womanhood, and, as unaccountably as Conrad found in English the language of his choice, I took more and more to the New Church doctrines as my religion. They have lifted my wistful longing for a fuller sense-life into a vivid consciousness of the complete being within me. Each day comes to me with both hands full of possibilities, and in its brief course I discern all the varieties and realities of my existence, the bliss of growth, the glory of action, the spirit of beauty.

Miss Keller brings keen and well-trained faculties and an enriched and noble spirit to bear upon the analysis and depiction of her inner state as a child and of her intellectual and spiritual development as through her teacher she began to gain an understanding of the world around her. She makes a warm tribute to the devotion and friendship of John Hitx, then Swiss Consul General to this country, who at 70 began to take an interest in the little blind-deaf girl of 14. It was through him that she first learned of Swedenborg's works.

 

You can purchase 'Light of My Darkness' online from the Oak Arbor Book Center

Click here to purchase Inspirational Words of Helen Keller from Fountain Publishing

 

Honors received by Helen Keller


On September 14, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson awarded Helen Keller the Presidential Medal of Freedom, one of the United States' highest two civilian honors.

In December 1999, Keller was listed in Gallup's Most Widely Admired people of the 20th Century, after a poll to determine people's feelings on the matter.

In 2003, the state of Alabama honored Keller — a native of the state — on its state quarter.

The Helen Keller Hospital is also dedicated to her.

 

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Cover of Light in My Darkness by Helen Keller
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