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Chronology of Helen Keller's Life

June 27, 1880
Helen Keller is born to Captain Arthur Henley Keller and Kate Adams Keller at Ivy Green in Tuscumbia, Alabama.

February 1882
After being struck by illness, Helen loses both her sight and hearing. No definitive diagnosis of the disease is ever determined.

Summer 1886
The Keller family meets with Dr. Alexander Graham Bell, who recommends contacting Michael Anagnos, director of Perkins Institution for the Blind in Boston. Captain Keller writes to Anagnos, requesting a teacher for Helen. Anagnos contacts his star pupil and valedictorian, Anne Mansfield Sullivan.

March 3, 1887
Anne Sullivan arrives in Tuscumbia and begins teaching Helen manual sign language.

April 5, 1887
Anne makes the “miracle” breakthrough, teaching Helen that “everything had a name,” by spelling W-A-T-E-R into Helen’s hand as water from the family’s water pump flows over their hands.

May 1888
Anne, Helen, and Kate Keller travel north, visiting Alexander Graham Bell, and meeting President Grover Cleveland at the White House, and visiting Aganos at Perkins Institution.

Fall 1889
Anne and Helen return to Perkins, where Helen is considered a “guest” of the school.

November 1891
Helen sends Anagnos the story “The Frost King” as a birthday present. She is accused of plagiarism. By 1894, Anagnos had broken off his relationship with Helen and Anne.

October 1894
Helen and Anne travel to New York City, where Helen attends the Wright-Humason School for the Deaf.

August 19, 1896
Helen’s father, Captain Keller, dies.

Fall 1896
Helen becomes a devout Swedenborgian.

October 1896
Helen is accepted as a pupil at the Cambridge School for Young Ladies, in preparation for attendance at Harvard’s annex for women, Radcliffe College.

December 1897
Helen and Anne leave the Cambridge School and move to Wrentham, Massachusetts. Helen continues her college preparatory studies with the assistance of private tutors.

July 4, 1899
Helen receives her certificate of admission to Radcliffe College.

September 1900
Helen becomes a member of the freshman class of 1904 at Radcliffe.

March 1903
With the help of editor John Albert Macy, Helen writes The Story of My Life.

Spring 1904
Helen and Anne buy a home on seven acres of land in Wrentham.

June 28, 1904
Helen becomes the first deaf-blind individual to receive a bachelor of arts degree, graduating cum laude from Radcliffe.

May 3, 1905
Anne marries John Macy at Wrentham.

July 1908
Helen writes and publishes The World I Live In.

Spring, 1909
Helen and John Macy join the Socialist Party of Massachusetts, and Helen becomes a suffragist.

January 1913
Helen and Anne begin their career on the lecture circuit, which is to last more than 50 years. Helen writes and publishes Out of the Dark, a collection of socialist writings.

1914
John Macy leaves Anne, though they never officially divorce.

October 1914
Polly Thomson joins Helen and Anne’s household.

November 1916
Peter Fagan, John Macy’s assistant, proposes to Helen, and they take out a marriage license in Boston. Helen’s mother forces her to publicly renounce her engagemen. Helen is sent to Montgomery, Alabama, to visit family, while Anne and Polly travel to Lake Placid and Puerto Rico in hopes of aiding Anne’s failing health.

October 1917
Helen and Anne sell their farm in Wrentham and move with Polly to Forest Hills, New York.

May 1918
Deliverance, a silent film based on Helen’s life, is produced.

February 1920
Helen and Anne begin their vaudeville career.

June 1921
Helen’s mother, Kate Keller, dies.

October 1924
Helen and Anne begin their work with the American Foundation for the Blind.

June 1925
Helen makes an appeal before the International Convention of Lions Clubs, asking the Lions to become “Knights of the Blind.”

October 1927
My Religion, Helen’s account of her Swedenborgian beliefs, is published.

Spring 1929
Midstream, an autobiographical account of Helen’s later life, is published.

April 1930
Helen, Anne, and Polly travel abroad for the first time, visiting Scotland, Ireland and England for over six months.

April 1931
Helen, Anne, and Polly participate in the first World Council for the Blind.

August 1931
Helen, Anne, and Polly travel to France and Yugoslavia.

May 1932
The women make a third trip abroad, visiting Scotland and England.

August 26, 1932
John Macy dies in Pennsylvania.

December 1932
Helen is elected to AFB’s board of trustees.

June 1933
Helen, Anne and Polly return to Scotland.

October 20, 1936
Anne Sullivan Macy dies.

November 1936
Helen and Polly travel abroad, visiting England, Scotland, and France.

April 1937
Helen and Polly travel to Japan, Korea, and Manchuria.

Spring 1938
Helen Keller’s Journal, a personal account of Helen’s life in 1936 and 1937, is published.

September 1939
Helen sells her home in Forest Hills, and the household moves to Arcan Ridge in Westport, Connecticut.

January 1943
Helen begins her visits to the blinded, deaf, and disabled soldiers of World War II in military hospitals around the country. She calls this “the crowning experience of my life.”

October 1946
Helen and Polly make their first world tour for the American Foundation for the Overseas Blind (AFOB) , AFB’s sister organization, visiting London, Paris, Italy, Greece, and Scotland. In the next 11 years, they would visit 35 countries on five continents.

November 1946
A fire destroys Arcan Ridge, along with almost all of the household’s possessions.

September 1947
The household moves into Arcan Ridge 2, an almost identical replica of the original Arcan Ridge home.

April-August 1948
Helen and Polly begin a tour of Australia and New Zealand as representatives of the AFOB. When they reach Japan, Polly suffers her first stroke, and the remainder of the tour is canceled.

Spring 1950-Spring 1953
Helen and Polly continue to travel all over the world, including Europe, South Africa., the Middle East, and Latin America.

Winter 1953
A documentary film of Helen’s life, The Unconquered (later renamed Helen Keller in Her Story), is released.

February 1955
Helen and Polly embark on a tour of the Far East, including India and Japan.

June 1955
Helen receives an honorary degree from Harvard University, the first woman to be so honored.

December 1955
Teacher, Helen’s biography about Anne Sullivan Macy, is published.

Spring 1956
The Unconquered wins an Academy Award for best feature length documentary of 1955.

November 1956
Helen makes peace with Perkins Institution, attending the dedication of “Keller-Macy Cottage.”

Winter 1956-57
William Gibson’s play The Miracle Worker, based on Helen’s early life with Anne, debuts on television and on Broadway.

May 1957
Helen and Polly tour Iceland and Scandinavia.

March 21, 1960
Polly Thomson dies.

October 1961
Helen suffers her first stroke and retires from public life.

September 1964
President Lyndon Johnson confers the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, upon Helen. She is unable to attend the ceremony.

June 1, 1968
Helen Keller passes away in her sleep. Over 1,200 mourners attend the funeral at the National Cathedral. Helen’s ashes are interred there with those of Anne and Polly.


From To Love This Life: Quotations by Helen Keller. Copyright © 2000 AFB Press, American Foundation for the Blind. All rights reserved.

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