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Browse By Topic: Helen Keller

Helen Keller worked for the American Foundation for the Blind for more than 40 years. She was born in Tuscumbia, Alabama, on June 27, 1880, and became deaf and blind at 19 months. Few could have imagined the leading role she would go on to play in many of the significant political, social, and cultural movements of the 20th century. Until her passing in 1968, she worked unceasingly to improve the lives of people with disabilities. As caretakers of Helen Keller's archival collection and legacy, we are honored to share her history with you. Learn more about Helen Keller by exploring her letters, speeches, artifacts, and photographs.

Giving Thanks that Helen Keller Remains in the Texas School Curriculum

Photo: Helen Keller seated in an armchair next to Winifred Corbally (right). Keller's young grandniece Margot Keller and another child stand in front. Texas, 1961. Today we give thanks for all the wonderful things in our lives, and on this particular Thanksgiving, the American Foundation for the Blind has a special word of gratitude to the Texas Board of Education. On Friday, November 16, the board voted to keep Helen

Helen Keller's Life and Impact

On September 14, a national conversation began when the Texas School Board recommended the removal of Helen Keller from its required Grade 3 social studies curriculum. We realized this was an important moment to share Helen Keller’s extraordinary life story, and the many lessons she left us: perseverance, service, determination, compassion, inclusion, and the ability to change the world. Helen Keller (1880-1968) worked for the American Foundation for the Blind for 44 years, and today,

Thoughts on Independence Day by Helen Keller

Happy Fourth of July! Helen Keller fought her entire life for social and economic equality for all. During the 1930s she used the platform of the popular Home Magazine to express her ideas and encourage self-reliance, education, and hope, particularly among women. On the occasion of the Fourth of July, 1934, she encouraged readers to reflect on democracy and the work of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt who sought to lift the country out of its economic woes. "Independence Day" by Helen Keller Home Magazine, July 1934 Image and text courtesy of the Helen Keller Archives, American Foundation of the

Animal Tales: Letters from Nella Braddy Henney to Helen Keller

Helen Keller with sheep in Scotland, 1932 Among her many roles, Nella Braddy Henney was a friend, agent, and editor to Helen Keller. Nella and her husband, Keith, spent their summers on Foss Mountain in Snowville, New Hampshire. With her teacher, Anne Sullivan and secretary and companion, Polly Thomson, the trio spent time at Nella’s summer home and would go on daily walks with Nella. Before leaving after a visit in 1938, Helen wrote to Nella that “your nest of peace is twice blest.” She continues, "

Helen Keller: "Alone We Can Do So Little. Together We Can Do So Much"

Image left to right, M. R. Barnett, American Foundation for the Blind, Executive Director, Helen Keller and Eric T. Boulter, American Foundation for the Overseas Blind, Field Director. Celebrating Helen's 75th birthday with cake, 1955. Kirk Adams here, President of the American Foundation for the Blind. I am humbled and honored to be the leader of the organization that Helen Keller championed for 44 years from 1924 until her death in 1968. Like Helen, I too am blind, and I too am keenly aware of the barriers faced by those of us living with vision loss. Today, June 27th, we

The Helen Keller Archive: Mystery Solved!

Helen Keller circa 1893. As an archivist, at the Perkins School for the Blind Archives, I often spend a lot of time tracking down information. While I relish a mystery and the process of its’ unraveling, these searches rarely come with a desirable deadline or at an opportune moment. Last summer, I was tasked with trying to track down materials that had been accessed before the Perkins School for the Blind had an archives program, archivist, or finding aids (pre-2011). The task was daunting, but almost all of it turned up in processed collections. I was lucky. One letter

"Miracle Work" Reflections of a French Deafblind Scholar on the Digital Helen Keller Archive

Helen Keller at the Union of the War Blind in Paris, 1946. She is with French veterans blinded during World War II, one of whom is playing the piano. In June 2018, more than a century after she was born, an enormous amount of Helen Keller's archive is available to everyone all over the world with an internet connection; this ‘miracle work’ has happened by virtue of digital technology, the will of an organization, the resolute eyes and hands of transcribers and the endless energy of an archivist and her team. As a deafblind French researcher, I am

Joseph E. Chamberlin: Journalist and Early Advocate of Helen Keller

Joseph Edgar Chamberlin As it turns out, in a certain generation, our family’s best memory keeper was Helen Keller. I am indebted to the Helen Keller Archive at the American Foundation for the Blind for allowing me to come to know – four generations later – my great-great grandfather, the Boston author and journalist, Joseph Edgar Chamberlin. My current book in progress, called Letters from Red Farm, reveals new information about Helen Keller as it tells the untold story of her deep and enduring friendship with her beloved "Uncle Ed, " my

Helen Keller's Friends: Famous and Progressive

Seen left to right are Joseph Lash, Trude Wenzel Lash, Eleanor Roosevelt, Helen Keller, Katharine Cornell, David Levy, Polly Thomson, and Adele Levy, 1954. On a late summer’s day in 1954 a group of friends gathered in Martha’s Vineyard for tea and conversation. The setting was Chip Chop, a sprawling compound owned by the married actors Katharine Cornell (known to friends as Kit) and Guthrie McClintic, and a few photos were taken to mark the occasion. The image above is one of them. The man on the far left is author Joseph Lash; to his right, in order, stand his wife, Trude Wenzel Lash,

Helen Keller and the Love of a Metadata Specialist for Her Subject

Left to right are Anne Bancroft and Helen Keller at an 80th birthday party for Keller. I thought I knew what I would find when I started my tenure as the Metadata Specialist for the digitization project of the Helen Keller Archive. During my graduate school internship at the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, MA, I processed several collections relating to the education and history of those who are blind and visually impaired. I knew all of the major Massachusetts players: Samuel Gridley Howe, Laura Bridgman,

Born Accessible: The Digital Helen Keller Archive

Helen Keller seated and reading a book in braille, Westport, CT, 1960. I have the honor of being an advisor for the Helen Keller Digital Archive, a project of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). One of the great aspects of a digital archive is that it makes the content more accessible to people with disabilities. AFB has gone even further to make the Helen Keller archive more usable by people with visual impairments or blindness. Helen Keller was one of the most famous social activists of the 20th century, and a notable

Helen Keller: Persistence and Resistance

Head and shoulders image of Helen Keller taken at her 80th birthday in 1960. Helen Keller died 50 years ago today – just a few weeks short of her 88th birthday. As the archivist and caretaker of her collection, I initially wondered how I nearly overlooked this anniversary. Upon consideration, I have several theories about this that I’d like to share with you. In the decade and a half of my professional role, I have never focused on her death date. Keller was fortunate enough to live a long life and she had the joy of witnessing the inroads she made to improve the lives of those with vision loss. But it's good to reflect on how

Inclusion for All: Celebrating Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2018

Thursday, May 17, marks the seventh Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), the purpose of which is to get everyone talking, thinking, and learning about digital access/inclusion and people with different disabilities. Every year on this day, AFB takes this opportunity to share our own resources to get the public thinking about accessibility. This year, we put together a free webinar to commemorate the day, featuring presentations by Cristopher Broyles, Chief Consulting Solutions Officer;

"Failures Become Victories If They Make Us Wise-Hearted" - Helen Keller

"...Let us not forget the treasures which the swift years have laid at our feetthe strength, the sense, the courage to meet difficulties and overcome them. Nothing else matters very much. To keep on trying in spite of disappointment and failure is the only way to keep young and brave. Failures become victories if they make us wise-hearted." -Helen Keller, in a 1921 speech she gave at the reunion dinner for Wright-Humason School, sharing memories of past classmates and her time spent at the school You can enjoy the

Sharing Our Progress in Making the Helen Keller Archive a Gold Standard of Accessibility for Other Digital Archives

We were so honored today to present at the Society of American Archivists 2017 Annual Meeting to discuss the Helen Keller Archive digitization project, and our work to create a

From Helen Keller to Netflix: Making Popular Culture Accessible

Helen in her dressing room in a vaudeville theatre, circa 1920 On June 15, the American Foundation for the Blind will be honoring Netflix with a

A Conversation with Architect Chris Downey

On June 15, the American Foundation for the Blind will be honoring architect Chris Downey with a Helen Keller Achievement Award for his exemplary leadership in accessible design, and dedication to creating enriching and helpful environments for people who are blind or visually impaired. Downey lost his sight in 2008, and has since gone on to found his own consulting firm, Architecture for the Blind. He specializes in designing workplaces, museum environments, and vision

For Teacher Appreciation Week, Enjoy Helen Keller's Tributes to Her Teacher, Annie Sullivan

"What do I consider a teacher should be? One who breathes life into knowledge so that it takes new form in progress and civilization." - Helen Keller in a speech to the National Education Association, 1938 <img src="" alt="Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan playing chess, 1900. Helen is about to move a white queen. She has already captured one of Anne's black pawns, which

The Gift that Keeps Giving: Reviving an Historic Home in Monroe, N.Y. with Strong Ties to Helen Keller

Helen Selsdon here, the archivist at the American Foundation for the Blind. Back in March 2016 I received an email from a gentleman asking me about a house called Rest Haven in upstate New York. I knew about this house and its connection to AFB and I wondered what he wanted to know. Little did I anticipate the wonderful story that was about to unfold. It is my great pleasure to introduce Timothy Mitts, the man behind an incredible campaign to save an historic building that was once owned by AFB’s President M. C. Migel and enjoyed by Helen Keller. Here is Tim’s story: On March 23,

Celebrate Annie Sullivan's Birthday: Support the Cogswell-Macy Act!

Happy birthday, Annie Sullivan! Annie was born on April 14, 1866, in Feeding Hills, Massachusetts. Today, we celebrate her legacy and excellence as an educator. She insisted that her student, Helen Keller, could learn and accomplish just as much as any seeing and hearing child could and she was right. Helen was a brilliant student, but Annie turned out to be an equally talented teacher. It was

Celebrating the Foundations of Education

Left to right: editors Cheryl Kamei-Hannan, M. Cay Holbrook, Ph.D., and Tessa S McCarthy at today's launch of Foundations of Education, Third Edition On March 3, 1887130 years ago to the dayAnnie Sullivan arrived in Tuscumbia, Alabama. The minute Annie met six-year-old Helen Keller, she began to sign into her hand, laying the foundation for Helen’s education. Not four weeks later, the now famous moment at the water pump took place, and Helen understood for the first time that everything had a

Helen Keller on Trying to Make the World 'A Little More As I Want It'

Image: Helen Keller walks in her garden in Westport, Connecticut, 1950. It is wintertime. Keller is seen smiling, facing the camera. She wears a long coat and woolen hat. She holds a wooden branch railing with her left hand. As the new year approaches, it’s a good time to review the progress that is being made to digitize the Helen Keller Archive. This is a mammoth task, and we are well on our way to accomplishing the work of preserving and disseminating online the over 80,000 items in the collection. We are simultaneously working on another major objective: to

Happy Thanksgiving From the American Foundation for the Blind

Transcript: Thanksgiving dinner at Palawoo, 1918. (Left to right) Elsa Kingsley, Mrs. Mary Kingsley, Polly Thompson, Helen Keller, Myra Kingsley, Maybon Kingsley, Mrs. Macy "Teacher" -- We are doing our best with a 14 lb turkey that Mrs. Kingsley brought in with all the "fixins." How much have we all both as individuals and collectively the [sic] be thankful for this wonderful day with the World War over. The American Foundation for the Blind is grateful for all of you, who share our vision of a world where the millions of people who are blind or visually impaired have equal

On Veterans Day, Resources for Soldiers Who Have Become Blind or Visually Impaired

The American Foundation for the Blind was founded in 1921 to advocate for

Beyond Recognition: What Machines Don't Read

Helen Keller reading braille at her home in Westport, Connecticut. October 1965. I am delighted that the fifth in our series of posts focusing on the Helen Keller Digitization Project is from Mara Mills New York University Associate Professor of Media, Culture and Communication. Mara’s post - on the continued importance of human transcribers - is fascinating and I encourage everyone to read it. Many thanks Mara! On Helen Keller’s birthday this year, archivist Helen Selsdon wrote a piece for the

Helen Keller: A Love Affair

Image: Helen Keller smelling flowers, circa 1919. This is the fourth in our series of posts celebrating Helen Keller and the wonderful new avenues that are opening up for research about her life and legacy as a result of the Helen Keller Digitization Project. This week’s post is from Christopher Carlson, author, screenwriter and playwright. Enjoy! I’m thrilled by the diligent work being done at American Foundation for the Blind to digitize its prodigious Helen Keller

"Yours Is a Different Understanding of Architecture": Helen Keller’s House in Easton, Connecticut

Image: Left to right, Helen Keller standing with Polly Thomson at the door to their home in Easton, Connecticut, circa 1955. AFB is thrilled to publish the third in our series of posts focusing on newly digitized items in the Helen Keller Archival Collection. This week’s post is from historian David Serlin, an associate professor in the Department of Communication at the University of California-San Diego. Enormous thanks to David for contributing such a fascinating, thoughtful, and thought-provoking blog post.

Transcribing Digitized Letters from the Helen Keller Archive: A Transcriber's Account

We are delighted that our next post in this series of posts devoted to the Helen Keller Digitization project is contributed by Susan Pearce, a volunteer transcriber, and a very valued member of our "Captains of Transcription" team. From Susan Pearce, transcriber: This is an unbelievably interesting project. I have been getting to know Helen Keller better. Miss Keller travelled the world and affected so many people's lives. What has been wonderful to transcribe are the handwritten letters from young students in school who thought of her as a heroic person and also had read her books; notwithstanding the many

Bringing Helen Keller’s History to Life

Today, Monday June 27th, 2016is Helen Keller’s 136th birthday. What better way to celebrate her legacy than by focusing our attention on the Helen Keller Digitization Project? As the result of a grant awarded in May 2015 by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) began the task of capturing 80,000 items in the Helen Keller Archival Collection. Using digital photography, correspondence, photographs, architectural drawings, oversize print materials, artifacts, and film clips are being made fully accessible via the Internet to both sighted and non-sighted audiences around the world. We are thrilled with the progress we have made! Over 164 manuscript boxes filled with documents have been photographed and over 24,000 digital

Helen Keller in Hiroshima, Japan

Friday May 27th 2016, President Barack Obama will be the first sitting President of the United States to set foot in Hiroshima since the atomic bomb devastated that city 71 years ago Wednesday October 13th 1948, Helen Keller was America’s First Goodwill Ambassador to Japan after the Second World War Helen wrote the following letter to her good friend Nella Braddy Henney on a train from Hiroshima to Fukuoka on October 14th, 1948, the day after her visit to the devastated city. The letter powerfully reminds us of the horrors of war and the suffering that war creates. "…Now I simply

A Breath of Fresh Air: Helen Keller and the Importance of Playgrounds for Children

Helen Keller was always a vocal supporter for the rights of children. In 1923, she wrote a fundraising letter on behalf of the National Playground and Recreation Association of America. In it she passionately advocated for the need for outdoor spaces where children could run around safely and enjoy themselves. Keller instinctively understood that play is as important to the healthy development of a child as is study indoors. Read her words below they are as applicable today as when she wrote them over ninety years ago. I have been asked to write a letter on behalf of the "National Playground and Recreation Association of

Happy 150th Anniversary Anne Sullivan Macy!

Dear Annie, Happy birthday! Today, we celebrate your legacy and excellence as an educator. You insisted that your student, Helen Keller, could learn and accomplish just as much as any seeing and hearing child could and you were right. You were a tough teacher when Helen misspelled a word in an essay or letter, you made her rewrite the entire text but you also had a finely tuned insight into a child’s psychology. You instantly recognized that Helen was a very bright child who just needed the tools to communicate with the world around her. You were critical of the conventional teaching methods of your day.

Helen Keller: Transformation and Renewal

As holidays and spring time approach it is a good time to reflect on Helen Keller’s love of nature and its possibilities for transformation and renewal. In September 1940 a year after she and her companion Polly Thomson moved into their new home in Westport, CT Keller wrote to her close friend "Uncle Walter." Here is an excerpt from that letter: This place is already amazingly transformed. Between jobs at the desk Polly and I have worked with our faithful Herbert to make our four acres shady in

Movie Magic: Helen Keller in Paris to Honor Louis Braille, 1952

Two hundred and seven years ago, on January 4th, 1809, Louis Braille was born in Coupvray, France. His invention of a system of raised dots representing letters, numbers and punctuation revolutionized the way blind people read and write and opened a wealth of knowledge to visually impaired audiences. In 1952, one hundred years after his death, Braille's body with the exception of his hands was removed from his home town to the Pantheon in Paris. Helen Keller was asked to give the speech on that occasion. AFB is thrilled to bring you this marvelous movie clip of that event. The clip includes her giving an address in French and accepting the French Legion of Honor for her work on behalf of those with vision

A Magical Movie Clip for the Holidays: Anne Sullivan Macy and Helen Keller

Enjoy the only known recording of Anne Sullivan Macy’s voice. Here Annie explains how she taught Helen to speak. This is one of a handful of clips recently re-mastered and digitized, and is part of the American Foundation for the Blind’s (AFB) big push to digitize Helen Keller’s entire archival collection and make it fully accessible to both blind and hearing impaired audiences: Happy Holidays from AFB! <script type="text/javascript"

"Democracy is a searching test of character" Helen Keller

Helen Keller’s book "Let Us Have Faith" was published in 1940. Her words are a timely reminder of the importance of vigilance in the face of prejudice and bigotry. Helen was acutely aware of the dangers of political and social discrimination. Seven years earlier, in 1933, her book entitled "How I became a socialist" was burned by Nazi youth during the book burning frenzy that took place in Germany. The following excerpt from "Let Us Have Faith" counsels us to be active participants in maintaining our democratic freedoms. "...Democracy is a compound of faith embodied in fellowship, knowledge and action. These cannot be sundered

"Live each day with gentleness, a vigor, and a keenness of appreciation" Helen Keller

Below is an excerpt from Helen Keller’s essay Three Days to See. Enjoy her beautiful and wise words. ...Sometimes I have thought it would be an excellent rule to live each day as if we should die to-morrow. Such an attitude would emphasize sharply the values of life. We should live each day with gentleness, a vigor, and a keenness of appreciation which are often lost when times stretches before us in the constant panorama of more days and months and years to come… …Now and then I have tested my seeing friends to discover what they see. Recently I was visited by a very good friend who had just returned from a long walk in the

On Thanksgiving, Enjoy This Newly Digitized Movie Clip of Helen Keller

The American Foundation for the Blind is delighted to share this movie clip of Helen Keller in her home in Westport, Connecticut. Filmed in the 1950s, it beautifully captures Helen’s instinctive appreciation of the world around her and her wholehearted joy of living. This is one of 10 clips that will be uploaded to the newly digitized Helen Keller Archival Collection. These clips, newly cleaned, are now also described and captioned for blind and hearing impaired viewers. <script

"An incalculable debt we owe you": Helen Keller on Veterans Day

Helen Keller and Polly Thomson with amputees in wheelchairs at McCloskey General Hospital, Temple, Texas, 1944 On Veterans Day, the American Foundation for the Blind honors all those who have fought in America's wars. Helen Keller was, and remains, a source of inspiration and solace for so many. During her lifetime thousands of veterans were inspired by her courage. We are particularly proud of the role Helen Keller played as a leading advocate for the men injured and maimed during World War I, World War II and the Korean War. Between 1944 and 1946 alone, Keller visited over 90 military

Save the Helen Keller Archives: Day 7

Welcome to this, the seventh day of our 8-day #BeAMiracleworker campaign. We have now raised $22,819, which is fantastic! But we have only one day left to reach our goal of $25,000. Please donate now and be a miracle worker. And don’t forget to follow the campaign’s progress on Facebook. A "Who’s Who" of the 19th and 20th Centuries "Some people are foolish enough to imagine that wealth and power and fame satisfy our hearts: but they never do, unless they are used to create and distribute happiness in the

Save the Helen Keller Archives: Day 6

Welcome to this, the sixth day of our 8-day #BeAMiracleworker campaign. The total has risen to a fabulous $22,656! However, we still need to raise $2,344 to reach our goal of $25,000, and we only have two days left of the fundraiser. Remember, every dollar we raise will be matched by the National Endowment for the Humanities, so please donate now and be a miracle worker. And don’t forget to follow the campaign’s progress on Facebook. See beyond a person’s disability… "When we do the best that

Save the Helen Keller Archives: Day 5

Welcome to this, our fifth day of our 8-day #BeAMiracleworker campaign. Every dollar we raise will be matched by the National Endowment for the Humanities. For a short time only, your gift of $10 will be worth $20, $25 will bring in $50 – you get the idea! We need to raise the money by this coming Wednesday, September 30th. Donate now and be a miracle worker. And don’t forget to follow the campaign’s progress on Facebook. In the Realm of the Senses "I can tell music from other

Save the Helen Keller Archives: Day 4

Welcome to the fourth day of our 8-day #BeAMiracleworker campaign. Every dollar we raise will be matched by the National Endowment for the Humanities. For a short time only, your gift of $10 will be worth $20, $25 will bring in $50 – you get the idea! But we need to raise this money by next Wednesday, September 30th. Donate now and be a miracle worker. And don’t forget to follow the campaign’s progress on Facebook. A Super Star! "Smile! Laughter makes even subdued personalities sparkle. No one has a

Save the Helen Keller Archives: Day 3

Welcome to the third day of our 8-day #BeAMiracleworker campaign. Yesterday we raised $6,124 which is absolutely wonderful! We are $5,919 away from our goal of $25,000 goal. With your help we can do this! We need to raise this money by next Wednesday, September 30th. Donate now be a miracle worker. And don’t forget to follow the campaign’s progress on Facebook. A Global Warrior "I believe that the welfare of each is bound up in the welfare of all" Keller traveled to 39 countries

Save the Helen Keller Archives: Day 2

Welcome to the second day of our 8-day #BeAMiracleworker campaign. We are thrilled to report that our total has risen by $2,212 and we have reached $12,957. Please help us reach our $25,000 goal by September 30th. Every dollar we raise will be matched by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Donate now and be a miracle worker. And don’t forget to follow the campaign’s progress on Facebook. A Supreme Communicator "I long to accomplish a great and noble task; but it is my chief duty and joy to

Save the Helen Keller Archives: Day 1

AFB’s 8-day fundraiser begins today. Every dollar we raise will be matched by the National Endowment for the Humanities. For a short time only, your gift of $10 will be worth $20, $25 will bring in $50 you get the idea! But we need to raise this money by next Wednesday, September 30th. Donate now and donate generously. And don’t forget to follow the campaign’s progress on Facebook. In the Beginning... " "What induces a child to learn but his delight in knowing?" The words

Meeting Helen Keller

Helen Keller fought for the rights of war veterans for over 40 years. The Helen Keller Archival Collection contains photographs and documents testifying to the extraordinary impact she had on the personal and working lives of the men and women who served and fought in the First World War, the Second World War and the Korean War. One such document is posted and transcribed here. Written 94 years ago today, the letter is signed by 30 ex-servicemen who were tuberculosis patients. It is a thank you letter to Helen Keller for visiting them and for inspiring them to rise above their misfortunes. Transcription of

Helen Keller: An Artificial Eye

Hello to all those Helen Keller aficionados out there! For this week’s look Inside the Helen Keller Digitization project, I am posting a newly photographed item (left hand image above) it’s the receipt for an artificial eye for Helen Keller. On the right hand side is a photograph of Helen taken at the Perkins School for the Blind, circa 1888. The receipt

Helen Keller: An Important Voice

Image: Inside pages from Helen Keller's passport issued December 1950, including headshot of Keller wearing a hat. This week on Inside the Helen Keller Digitization Project, University of California, Berkeley, English professor and author of Blind Rage: Letters to Helen Keller Georgina Kleege, describes her excitement at the prospect of gaining access to previously unavailable materials including transcripts

Helen Keller and Talking Books: A 'Priceless Boon'

Image: Helen Keller with Robert Irwin, feeling the vibrations from the speaker of a Talking Book playback machine in the library of the American Foundation for the Blind, no date. Welcome back to Inside the Helen Keller Digitization Project. Did you know that the American Foundation for the Blind was instrumental in creating the first Talking Book audio recordings? Mara

Helen Keller in Paris: Tourism, Nostalgia and Memory

Image: Helen Keller holds baguettes and stands next to Polly Thomson, 1952 This week’s blog for Inside the Helen Keller Digitization Project is a wonderful piece by David Serlin, associate professor of communication and science studies at the University of California, San Diego. Enjoy! One of my favorite objects in the

Inside the Helen Keller Digitization Project - "I Never Knew That!"

We are delighted to present the first of the many blog posts that will appear over the next two years as part of the Helen Keller Digitization Project. We are kicking off with a post by Kim E. Nielsen, professor of Disability Studies at the University of Toledo, and Helen Keller expert. Enjoy! Every year my spring is marked by phone calls, emails, letters and Skype conversations about Helen Keller initiated by nervous middle- and high-school students. These participants in National History Day, an annual program

Happy Birthday, Helen Keller! And Welcome to the Helen Keller Archival Collection Digitization Project

Helen Keller was born on June 27th 1880 and we've made a cake to celebrate her birthday! It's inscribed with the Helen's words "Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much" This is very appropriate as we are also celebrating the beginning of our digitization project! We are thrilled that as a result of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, AFB has begun the task of digitizing the over 80,000 items contained in the Helen Keller Archives. Correspondence, press clippings, photographs, scrapbooks, audio recordings, artifacts, and film clips will be made fully accessible

Attending and Presenting at the Helen Keller Achievement Awards in New York City

I’ve made it back to West Virginia after all of the excitement and fun at the American Foundation for the Blind's Helen Keller Achievement Awards. I had the honor to attend last year, when Christine Ha won a Helen Keller Achievement Award; she’s a connection of mine and an inspiration, so that was a real blessing. This year took it to a whole different level, though, as I was able to assist our AFB Board Trustee, Cathy Burns, in presenting Charlie Cox with his Helen Keller Achievement Award. Actor Charlie Cox won the award for his work in accurately portraying the blind character Matt Murdock in the Netflix series Marvel's

Helen Keller Sees Flowers and Hears Music

Helen Keller was interviewed in her home in Forest Hills, Queens by Hazel Gertrude Kinscella in 1930 for Better Homes and Gardens. The article, entitled "Helen Keller Sees Flowers and Hears Music" is excerpted here; it appeared in their May issue. Read on and enjoy! "...You wish to know what home and garden mean to me,” she said, at once. " "My garden is my greatest joy. I feel that I am in the seventh heaven when among my plants. I feel the little heads pop up to look at me my poppies, pansies, and pinks. We had a fine time in

Helen Keller: A Childhood Memory

Before there was Anne Sullivan Macy, there was Helen Keller’s mother: Kate Adams Keller. This sensitive and intelligent woman fought to find help for her young deaf and blind daughter when her child was an infant. Helen always spoke fondly of her mother’s intelligence and determination and corresponded with her mother continuously once she left Alabama and lived in Massachusetts. On Mother’s Day we honor Kate Keller for her tenacity and love. In Helen Keller’s autobiography, Helen relates an early childhood memory of being with her mother.

Celebrating Annie Sullivan's Birthday

Anne Sullivan Macy (1866-1936) was a woman whose brilliance, passion, and tenacity enabled her to overcome a traumatic past. She became a model for others disadvantaged by their physical bodies, as well as by gender or class. Anne was born on this day, April 14, in 1866the eldest daughter of poor, illiterate, and unskilled Irish immigrants. She grew up to become a pioneer in the field of education. Her work with Helen Keller became the blueprint for education of children who were blind, deaf-blind, or visually impaired that still continues today. Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain) dubbed her a "miracle worker." However, Anne's personal

"Nature has the power to renew and refresh.." Helen Keller

Helen Keller reveled in nature. Her enjoyment of physical exercise and her love of the outdoors is beautifully captured in an article written 80 years ago this month and published in "The Guardian," a magazine "For Leaders of Camp Fire Girls." Read the transcription below and become inspired to stretch those limbs and enjoy the spring! Introduction: Among our hundreds of thousands of joyous Camp Fire Girls there are some who are blind, some who are deaf and some who are otherwise handicapped. We thought of them especially when we read Helen Keller’s article in Good Housekeeping which she called "Nature’s

3 Titans: Alexander G. Bell, Anne Sullivan Macy and Helen Keller

Today, March 3rd, we salute 3 titans of American history: Alexander Graham Bell, Anne Sullivan Macy and Helen Keller. Alexander Graham Bell was born on this day in 1847. Famous for his pioneering work with the telephone, Bell was also very influential in the field of education for the deaf. In 1886 Helen Keller’s parents Captain Arthur Keller and Kate Adams Keller contacted Bell seeking assistance for their deaf and blind daughter. Bell put them in touch with the Perkins School for the Blind in Boston, Massachusetts, and Perkins subsequently recommended Anne Mansfield Sullivan as a governess for their child. Anne

"Helen Keller In Her Story" Oscar Winner 1955

Sixty years ago, Helen Keller was given an honorary Oscar as inspiration for the movie Helen Keller in Her Story a documentary by Nancy Hamilton about her life; she turned 75 that year and had spent 6 decades fighting for those with vision loss. Decades earlier, in 1916 she delivered an address on the Midland Chautauqua Circuit in which she said: I, for one, love strength, daring, fortitude. I do not want people to kill the fight in them; I want them to fight for right things. And that she most certainly did! In addition to her work for those with visual impairments, Helen

Helen Keller: A Champion Among Presidents

"Only people count. Only people who think and feel and work together make civilization. Only governments that keep every door of opportunity wide open are civilized governments...Civilization means a fair chance to live. It means an equitable share of the resources of the earth for every one. It means health and freedom and education for all men." <div

Helen Keller: On the Subject of Love

On the eve of her 80th birthday in June 1960, Helen Keller gave an interview looking back on her life. She spoke with Ann Carnahan, a journalist, about her "secrets of joyous living." Question: What is the greatest virtue a person may have or cultivate? Answer: Love. Cultivate love for love is the light that gives the eye to see great and noble things. Love is true

Jewelry, Braille-Labeled Gifts, and Accessible Cards for Valentine's Day!

"What we once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose, for all that we love deeply becomes a part of us." -Helen Keller With Valentine's Day right around the corner, there's still time to share the love with beautiful Helen Keller-themed jewelry that helps

Wise words from Helen Keller

Wherever you may be and whatever you are doing If you are bathed in sunshine or wrapped in snow take a few moments to enjoy and reflect on Helen Keller's wise words: "It is beyond a doubt that everyone should have time for some special delight, if only five minutes each day to seek out a lovely flower or cloud or a star, or learn a verse or brighten another’s dull task. What is the use of such terrible diligence as many tire themselves out with, if they always postpone their exchange of smiles with Beauty and Joy to cling to irksome duties and relations? Unless they admit these fair, fresh, and eternal presences into

Helen Keller: What Would She Say if She Attended Davos Today?

Yesterday was the first day of the Annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. At a time of global concern over economic disparity and cultural polarization it is interesting to read a letter that Helen Keller wrote in 1922.

Equality and Justice for All

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Helen Keller: A Christmas Tale

In The Approach of Christmas Helen Keller vividly describes an early childhood memory of Christmas. It was December 1887, a momentous year for Helen Keller. In March of that year Anne Sullivan came to Tuscumbia, Alabama to teach Helen. Just a few weeks later, Anne successfully taught her young pupil to communicate using the manual sign language. Helen was just six years old. Many years later, Helen described the joy of her "first" Christmas in December of that year, as well as her subsequent bewilderment and outrage as she discovered inequality in the world. "Tell us about your happiest Christmas." Do

Helen Keller: A Consummate Fundraiser

Sixty-seven years ago, on December 16th 1947, Helen Keller gave this speech to the New York Commission for the Blind. Its power resonates today... Dear Friends, It is an honor to salute you on International Day. The New York Commission for the Blind is glad to have you see that the sightless can do work worthy of their dignity as human beings – they can earn their daily bread and produce goods both excellent and useful. Through the work of their hands they are able to give assistance to other blind people who are in want. Last winter I visited the blind of Europe, and it stabbed me to the

Helen Keller and the American Foundation for the Blind's Commitment to Veterans Who Have Lost Their Sight

In honor of Veterans Day, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is proud to reflect on the work of its most famous employee Helen Keller. She joined the Foundation in 1924 and remained with us until she died in 1968. Keller was a vocal advocate for returning servicemen. On behalf of AFB, between 1942 and 1944, she supported Senator Robert Wagner’s efforts to secure funding for the rehabilitation, special vocational training, placement, and supervision of blind persons, including those blinded in World War II. And between November 1944 and May 1946 she and her traveling companion Polly Thomson visited over 70 Army hospitals around the United

Helen Keller: Nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize

Last week, Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi were awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. Almost fifty years ago, there was a movement afoot to secure nominations for Helen Keller. Keller did not receive the Nobel Peace Prize, but the letters that were received from around the world are a wonderful reminder of this extraordinary humanitarian. Two are excerpted here below: Letter from S. T. Dajani, Chairman, Arab Blind Organization, Jerusalem, to the Secretary-General World Council for the Welfare

Helen Keller at the United Nations

As world leaders gather for the United Nations General Assembly, it is interesting to read the speech that Keller wrote for the United Nations in 1950. "Dear Friends: Truly it is an exalted privilege for me to address such a splendid gathering representing the humanitarian public spirit of world citizenship. As United Nations Week brings home to us the far-speeding activities of our global Prometheus, it is fitting that we hail an organization whose final triumph is bound up with the salvation and

Helen Keller: Our Planet Earth

As society's focus on the environment has increased it is interesting to note that Helen Keller had a deep respect for the natural world and an innate understanding of the need for a healthy planet. She wrote the following (excerpted here) to Karl Menninger in 1959. Menninger was a leading American psychiatrist and founder of The Menninger Foundation in Kansas City, Missouri. "Dear Dr. Menninger, It was indeed a delight for me to receive the article, "Conserving and Using Our Open Spaces", for which I thank you warmly. It is thought-provoking and most stimulating. Not only do I love the open spaces for

Going Back to School with Helen Keller

The True Meaning of the Value of Education by Helen Keller,The Home Magazine September 1934 It is September. Vacation time is over, and the children of the nation are going back to school. We spend more money on education than any other nation on earth. In the last thirty years the high school enrolment increased fifteen times as fast as the population, and our college students about seven times as rapidly. Yet thoughtful observers of our national life are appalled by the lack of culture in the people. If this is true, what is wrong with our educational system? My answer is that parents and teachers have

Helen Keller's Love of Reading

Helen Keller was a voracious reader. She describes her love of reading in her second autobiography entitled Midstream, published in 1929. "More than at any other time, when I hold a beloved book in my hand my limitations fall from me, my spirit is free. Books are my compensation for the harms of fate. They give me a world for a lost world, and for mortals who have disappointed me they give me gods. I cannot take space to name here all the books that have enriched my life, but there are a few that I cannot pass over. The one I have read most is

Helen Keller's First Experience of the Ocean

Helen Keller loved the ocean, but her first swimming trip as a young girl took her by surprise... "My most vivid recollection of that summer is the ocean. I had always lived far inland and had never had so much as a whiff of salt air; but I had read in a big book called Our World a description of the ocean which filled me with wonder and an intense longing to touch the mighty sea and feel it roar. So my little heart leaped high with eager excitement when I knew that my

Helen Keller and Tilly Aston: Beauty in Nature

Koala in a eucalyptus tree, courtesy of Harry Williamson By Maribel Steel and Helen Selsdon Helen Keller had an acute sense of smell. She loved being in nature and the fragrance of flowers. One scent she was particularly fond of was the fresh scent of eucalyptus leaves. "When I was in California, where the eucalyptus grows in magnificent groves, I used to stand among them with my fingers reveling, in the music of their leaves, inhaling their perfume with intense delight." Keller wrote this in 1934 to Tilly Aston, an Australian

Dressed Up, Inspired, Impressed: My Thoughts on AFB’s Helen Keller Achievement Awards

Last night, I had the great opportunity to attend the American Foundation for the Blinds Helen Keller Achievement Awards fundraising gala at the Marriott Downtown in New York City. This was my first opportunity to attend the event, as I was in the area for work. I thought I would share with you my impression of this outstanding occasion. The Achievement Awards were initiated in 1994 to honor our long-time employee and internationally recognized icon, Helen Keller. I cannot begin to explain how

Helen Keller's Presidential Medal of Freedom

"Many persons have the wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose." - Helen Keller In 1964 Helen Keller was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Next weekon Tuesday June 17ththe American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) will hold its annual Helen Keller Achievement Awards honoring those who continue Keller's extraordinary efforts to improve the lives of those with vision loss. Please

Making the Helen Keller Archival Collection Accessible to Everyone

Image: Helen Keller with children in Adelaide, Australia, 1948 The American Foundation for the Blind is committed to promoting the life and legacy of Helen Keller. We are the proud caretakers of her archival collection of over 80,000 items including documents, photographs, photograph albums, press clippings, scrapbooks, architectural drawings, artifacts and audio-video materials. The archives were first made available to researchers during the 1970s. Since then, historians, writers, film makers, school children and the general public have had access to these extraordinary materials. However this amazing resource remains

Laura Bridgman, and What Might Have Been

Laura Bridgman, photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons Ever heard of Laura Bridgman? Bridgman is generally acknowledged as the first deaf-blind child to be successfully educated. Here's an interesting article from Slate about her life titled "The Education of Laura Bridgman. She was Helen Keller before Helen Keller. Then her mentor abandoned their studies." As I read the piece, excerpted from the book For the Benefit of Those

Helen Keller Describes Her Love of New York City

This day in history (May 4th, 1897) New York City's five boroughs were consolidated. Helen Keller beautifully describes her love of the Big Apple in her 1929 biography "Midstream." Enjoy! I Go Adventuring Cut off as I am, it is inevitable that I should sometimes feel like a shadow walking in a shadowy world. When this happens I ask to be taken to New York City. Always I return home weary but I have the comforting certainty that mankind is real flesh and I myself am not a dream. In order to get to New York from

Helen Keller Letter on Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony Goes Viral

On Saturday March 29, NPRs Scott Simon read an excerpt from a letter that Helen Keller wrote describing her joy at listening to Beethovens Ninth Symphony over the radio. The source of this feature is AFBs Facebook post on Helen Keller: The Official Fan Page. We are thrilled that this post has been viewed by almost 2 million people so far. This letter is just one of the over 80,000 items in Helen Kellers archival collection that AFB seeks

Be Like Helen on Her Birthday; Be an Advocate!

[Editor's note: The following post is authored by Keller Johnson-Thompson, Helen Keller's great-grandniece.] My Great Grand Aunt, Helen Keller, was a unique woman. Not only did she overcome the double dungeon of darkness and silence in her own life, but she fought to help others overcome the obstacles that stood in the paths of their lives as well. From women's suffrage, to civil rights, to labor laws, my aunt wanted a world in which every individual would have equal rights under the law. I know without a

Helen Keller's Words: 80 Years Later… Still as Powerful

May 9, 1933 To the Student Body of Germany History has taught you nothing if you think you can kill ideas. Tyrants have tried to do that often before, and the ideas have risen up in their might and destroyed them. You can burn my books and the books of the best minds in Europe but the ideas in them have seeped through a million channels, and will continue to quicken other minds. I gave all the royalties of my books to the soldiers blinded in the World War with no thought in my heart but love and compassion for the German people. Do not imagine your barbarities to the Jews are unknown here. God

A Q&A with Helen Selsdon, Helen Keller Archivist

Celebrating Helen During Women's History Month [Editor's note: In light of Women's History Month, this post concludes our series of interviews with Helen Keller experts on the AFB Blog. The following Q&A comes courtesy of Helen Selsdon, Archivist at the American Foundation for the Blind, including the Helen Keller Archives.] How has your close contact with so much of Helen's writings and, well, life, affected you?

A Q&A with Doreen Rappaport, Author of “Helen’s Big World”

Celebrating Helen During Women's History Month [Editor's note: In light of Women's History Month, we'll be running a series of interviews with Helen Keller experts on the AFB Blog. The following Q&A comes courtesy of Doreen Rappaport, author of the award-winning biography Helen's Big World.] Many books have been written about Helen Keller, including many children’s books. What motivated you to write one as well? What sets yours apart? I visit many schools each year talking to children

A Q&A with Keller Johnson-Thompson, Helen Keller's great-grandniece

Celebrating Helen During Women's History Month [Editor's note: In light of Women's History Month, we will be running a series of interviews with Helen Keller experts on the AFB Blog. First up: Keller Johnson-Thompson, Helen's great-grandniece.] Helen Keller was an ambassador for those with vision loss. Working for the Helen Keller Foundation for Research and Education, you are an ambassador for Helen. What difficulties do you come across, if any, in promoting the life of a

Helen Keller Continues to Inspire

Over the past couple of months, we at AFB have received a number of correspondences regarding the announcement and promotion of various Helen Keller-related projects. While we can't always honor every request, we have been impressed with what has crossed our desks. Crazy as it sounds, there are many out there who don't know who Helen Keller was. So to see so many creative projects taking place with Helen as inspiration makes us proudand, we think, would have made Helen herself smile. Here's a brief look at some of our recent favorites. Three Days to See An

Helen Tours the Middle East: Lebanon

This is part 2 of a 5-part series. Read the first entry, Egypt, here. Helen and Polly's next port of call was Lebanon. Here is how she described their visit in late April and early May 1952 to Georges Raverat, the director of the AFOB in Paris: "At Beirut I did my best to arouse the Lebanese people and their Government to a sense of responsibility in rehabilitating the blind. The School for the Armenian Blind under the management of Swiss Friends, ably directed by Mr. Karl Meyer, is excellent, but it

Helen Tours the Middle East: Egypt

2012 marks 60 years since Helen Keller toured the Middle East; namely, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Israel. Helen was entranced by the Middle East and wrote about it to her friend and colleague Georges Raverat, the Director of the American Foundation for Overseas Blind (now Helen Keller International) in Paris. During her visit, Helen met leading cultural and political figures of the region, including the Egyptian writer and intellectual Taha Hussein, Queen Noor of Jordan and Golda Meir, Israel's Foreign Minister. Her letter to Raverat makes fascinating reading, so I thought I

Helen on Helen: Helen Keller's Travels Through Japan, Part 2

Helen's travels through Japan, Part 2 [Read Part 1 of Helen Keller's Travels Through Japan] Helen's fame among the Japanese people was sealed as a result of her second trip to the country in 1948. She was sent as the United States' first Goodwill Ambassador by General Douglas MacArthur as well as the Mainichi Press, an English-language newspaper that sponsored her trip. Wonderful news footage taken during her visit shows streets lined with spectators and open-air theaters teeming with waving children and adults. An estimated 2 million people saw her

A Pilgrimage to Helen Keller's Birthplace, Part 1

Guest Blogger Helen Selsdon, AFB Archivist I am an English woman who has lived for over twenty years in New York City. Eight of these years have been spent working as the Archivist at the American Foundation for the Blind, where I have organized the over 80,000 items contained in the Helen Keller Archives. I have come to live and breathe Helen and her teacher Annie Sullivan. A few weeks ago I visited Helen Keller's birth place in Tuscumbia, Alabama. It was easily one of the most memorable trips I have ever taken. Period. This trip was a