Helen proved to be a remarkable scholar, graduating with honours from Radcliffe College in 1904. She had phenomenal powers of concentration and memory, as well as a dogged determination to succeed. While she was still at college she wrote 'The Story of My Life'. This was an immediate success and earned her enough money to buy her own house.
Helen was very religious and her faith led her to examine the world more and more carefully. She began to realise that there was great injustice in the world and that people were not treated equally. Blindness was often caused by disease which was itself often caused by poverty. She became a suffragette and a socialist, demanding equal rights for women and better pay for working class people. She also helped set up the American Foundation for the Blind in order to provide better services to people with impaired vision.
She toured the country, giving lecture after lecture. Many books were written about her and several plays and films were made about her life. Eventually she became so famous that she was invited abroad and received many honours from foreign universities and monarchs. In 1932 she became a vice-president of the Royal National Institute for the Blind in the United Kingdom.
After her death in 1968 an organisation was set up in her name to combat blindness in the developing world. Today that agency, Helen Keller International, is one of the biggest organisations working with blind people overseas.
It is important to remember that without the help of others Helen Keller would never have succeeded as she did. She relied a great deal on Anne Sullivan, who accompanied her everywhere for almost fifty years. Without her faithful teacher Helen would probably have remained trapped within an isolated and confused world.
Even so, there is no doubt that Helen Keller was quite remarkable. She was extremely intelligent, sensitive and determined. She was certainly the first deaf-blind person to make such a public success of her life. But she is not the only person with a hearing and sight impairment to succeed. She is simply the best known.
Perhaps her biggest success was in persuading others that disability is not the end of the world. One Japanese lady said of her,
'For many generations, more than we can count, we bowed our
heads and submitted to blindness and beggary. This blind and deaf woman
lifts her head high and teaches us to win our way by work and laughter.
She brings light and hope to the heart'.
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