Totally deaf and blind from the period of 19 months, people famous at 7 for having actually learned to read, write, and communicate v the finger alphabet, Helen Keller took it right into her head, together a teenager addicted come books, to use for join to Radcliffe College. She really want to go to Harvard, which would not think about her. For 4 years she prepped and also was tutored because that examinations in English literature, French, German, Latin, Greek, history, and mathematics. Working on a typewriter, she deserve satisfactory qualities in every subjects; for the bugaboo the geometry, she relied ~ above tactile diagrams do of increased letters and also lines. Radcliffe admitted her.

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This 1898 picture from a souvenir publication shows just how Anne Sullivan (at right) "read-spelled" come Helen Keller and how lock conversed.
Photograph courtesy the the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University

Keller and Anne Sullivan, she resourceful, demanding teacher and companion native the age of six, struggled with each other through 4 years the college choose a pair that Siamese twins, join by your flying fingers. Explained as fantastic in English letters, Keller i graduated cum laude in 1904 right into a human being unprepared for an educated freak, also a talented and good-natured one. What can these two beautiful, celebrated, support dependent women, without family resources, do in life?

A couple of years earlier, Keller had uncovered that she could write effectively and also she gone after that calling, undaunted by an early incident in which her an effective memory entangled her in involuntary plagiarism. While in ~ Radcliffe, she created a vivid personal account the her very own miraculous resulting age v language after five and also a fifty percent years of empty solitude. A discerning editor the the Ladies" residence Journal i was delegated her to produce a collection of six personal narratives under the location The Story of my Life. Even though she was still struggling v college courses, Keller perfect the series in 1902 and brought out a full-length publication with the same title in 1903. The Story of my Life has end up being a significant classic that American literature and also autobiography. Keller to be 23.

Five years later, she created The world I Live In, a publication of personal essays, originally published in Century Magazine, come answer skeptics and critics the her an initial book and also to refute the case that she and Sullivan to be impostors. Literary doubters such together Van Wyck Brooks, Walter Percy, and Cynthia Ozick, and also cognitive scientists such as William James, Oliver Sacks, and Gerald Edelman have discovered in The Story of my Life and also The world I Live In two of the many revealing within narratives the the development of what we call human consciousness. The books additionally offer an interesting case background of an unprecedented feat of separation, personal, instance education versus crippling odds and also make clean why Alexander Graham Bell, note Twain, and Andrew Carnegie concerned Keller and also Sullivan as two of the many remarkable women of their time.

Keller adopted life enthusiastically — whether horseback riding, swimming, visiting Niagara Falls, or providing lectures v Sullivan. The 2 women also performed as themselves ~ above the vaudeville circuit. However they can not assistance themselves that means and soon had actually to rely on a trust fund set up because that them by rich friends in Boston and brand-new York. After ~ Keller became a convinced socialist, joining labor parades and feminist demonstrations, she uncovered a specific awkwardness in living off the fruits of capitalism. In 1910 she felt compelled to decrease Andrew Carnegie"s offer of a generosity pension, explaining, "I hope to enlarge my life and also work through my own efforts, and also you, sir, who have won prosperity from tiny beginnings, will uphold me in mine decision to fight my battles without further aid than ns am currently receiving from loyal friends and also a generous world." She and Carnegie however became an excellent friends, and later she was obliged to accept his offer.

Increasingly, Keller"s time and energy were devoted to philanthropy, and she traveled anywhere the civilization for the American structure for the remote to raise money and support because that the deaf, the blind, and also the needy. In 1955, once she was 75, Harvard acknowledged her through its first honorary degree ever granted come a woman. The citation because that the new doctor of legislations stated, "From a still, dark human being she has brought us light and sound; our lives are richer for she faith and her example."

It is fully appropriate that for the centennials that her first book and also of she graduation native Radcliffe, Keller"s 2 greatest publications have reappeared in restored, unabridged execution (see below). The exciting play and also film version of she story in wilhelm Gibson"s The miracle Worker have moved countless viewers, but they cannot enhance the compelling accounts she wrote herself. Past her iconic status as a handicapped person, Helen Keller lives on v her own words as a woman who can look at her afflictions "in together a means that they become privileges" (as she placed it in the epigraph to the magazine version of The Story of my Life). She remains an eloquent witness that the deepest meaning of gift alive together a person being.

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Now college Professor emeritus in ~ Boston University, i get it Shattuck, a Junior other at Harvard native 1950 come 1953 and also scholar of compare literature, is the writer of The Banquet Years, Proust"s Way, and also Forbidden Knowledge. Most recently, that is coeditor, through Keller biographer Dorothy Herrmann, of an unabridged execution of Helen Keller"s The Story of my Life (Norton, 2003) and editor of one unabridged edition of Keller"s The civilization I Live In (New York evaluation Books, 2004).