357. Helen Keller: Overcoming Disability

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Helen Keller was an American educator and journalist, who became one of the leading humanitarians in the history of the United States. Born on June 27, 1880 in Tuscumbia, a small town in Alabama, Keller was stricken with a childhood disease that left her deaf, and blind. The illness Keller suffered is a mystery to this day. She was diagnosed with "Brain Fever," by her family doctor, but most people speculated that she suffered from either Scarlet Fever, or Meningitis. Unable to see, or hear, Keller became difficult to deal with as her behavior was described by her family and friends as wild.

Soon Keller and her family developed their own type of sign language that allowed them to communicate on a limited basis. Helen's mother sought help for her anguished child, which eventually led to Anne Sullivan, who was a recent graduate of the Perkins Institute for the Blind. The school had been successful in the past in educating blind students, and Sullivan was one of its star graduates. Once Sullivan and Keller got through the difficult beginnings, their friendship, and association lasted for 49 years.

Keller was determined to become educated, and to teach herself to communicate. After attending several schools, she became the first deaf and blind person to earn a college degree. She became very well-known, and began a lecture tour where she addressed social and political issues, including women's suffrage, and birth control.

In 1920, she helped found the American Civil Liberties Union, which is still active today. She addressed Congress to raise awareness to the plight of the blind. Through all her accomplishments, she fell into disfavor with the American public because of her socialist views later in her life. She died in her sleep just days before his 88th birthday, but she lives in the American consciousness for her tireless work, and perseverance.

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