Handwritten letter from Helen Keller to Mr. Goodnow, circa 1887. Full transcript of letter is shown below.
After Helen's breakthrough in understanding the meaning of words, she moved ahead with amazing speed. Within three weeks, she had learned more than 100 words. Anne taught her as one would teach a young child. "I shall assume that she has the normal child's capacity of assimilation and imitation. I shall use complete sentences in talking to her." Anne took all she had learned at Perkins about teaching a deaf-blind child and adapted her knowledge to produce a more natural way of teaching. Many of Helen's lessons were outdoors. Anne realized that this deaf-blind child could learn much using her three remaining senses of touch, smell, and taste:
It is wonderful how words generate ideas! Every new word Helen learns seems to carry with it the necessity for many more. Her mind grows through its ceaseless activity.
Full Transcripts of Letters
Anne's Letter to Sophia C. Hopkins (May 16, 1887)
May 16, 1887.
We have begun to take long walks every morning, immediately after breakfast. The weather is fine, and the air is full of the scent of strawberries. Our objective point is Keller's Landing, on the Tennessee, about two miles distant. We never know how we get there, or where we are at a given moment; but that only adds to our enjoyment, especially when everything is new and strange. Indeed, I feel as if I had never seen anything until now, Helen finds so much to ask about along the way. We chase butterflies, and sometimes catch one. Then we sit down under a tree, or in the shade of a bush, and talk about it. Afterwards, if it has survived the lesson, we let it go; but usually its life and beauty are sacrificed on the altar of learning, though in another sense it lives forever; for has it not been transformed into living thoughts? It is wonderful how words generate ideas! Every new word Helen learns seems to carry with it necessity for many more. Her mind grows through its ceaseless activity.
Keller's Landing was used during the war to land troops, but has long since gone to pieces, and is overgrown with moss and weeds. The solitude of the place sets one dreaming. Near the landing there is a beautiful little spring, which Helen calls "squirrel-cup," because I told her the squirrels came there to drink. She has felt dead squirrels and rabbits and other wild animals, and is anxious to see a "walk-squirrel," which interpreted, means, I think, a "live squirrel." We go home about dinner-time usually, and Helen is eager to tell her mother everything she has seen. This desire to repeat what has been told her shows a marked advance in the development of her intellect, and is an invaluable stimulus to the acquisition of language. I ask all her friends to encourage her to tell them of her doings, and to manifest as much curiosity and pleasure in her little adventures as they possibly can. This gratifies the child's love of approbation and keeps up her interest in things. This is the basis of real intercourse. She makes many mistakes, of course, twists words and phrases, puts the cart before the horse, and gets herself into hopeless tangles of nouns and verbs; but so does the hearing child. I am sure these difficulties will take care of themselves. The impulse to tell is the important thing. I supply a word here and there, sometimes a sentence, and suggest something which she has omitted or forgotten. Thus her vocabulary grows apace, and the new words germinate and bring forth new ideas; and they are the stuff out of which heaven and earth are made.
Helen's Handwritten Letter to Mr. Goodnow, circa 1887
Baby is glad to go to ride. Baby will clap little hands. Helen and Mildred will go in cars to see Grandma. Helen and baby will have fun. Mildred wear pretty new cap and Helen will nice white dress. The sun does make flowers and birds grow. Mother will give baby sweet heliotrope. Helen will take Grandma a large bouquet. Mildred can smell sweet flowers but must not tear flowers. Helen will take Nancy to see the doctor. The doll is sick. Doctor will give doll medicine in a little cup. Helen will not give doll sugar. Sugar will not make Nancy well.