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

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Frontispiece of The Story of My Life

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 wonderful cards and letters that were also written to Miss Helen Keller.

The condolence letters that were sent after hearing the news of Miss Keller’s death were so heartfelt and inspirational; it was like they knew Miss Keller personally. For instance, there is a letter from a Miss Davis’s 5th grade class from Illinois. The date of the letter is June 12, 1968. The students had read the story of Helen Keller’s life in the reader "Vistas" by Scott Foresman "&" Co. As they finished the story, Miss Keller had passed away. [Helen Keller died June 1, 1968].They had talked about Miss Keller quite a bit and had wanted to send $2.00 for Miss Keller’s birthday, but upon hearing the sad news the 30 students and teacher used the funds for a donation to the American Foundation for the Blind, Inc. in her memory. The money had come from the 5th grade club Treasury. It was such an endearing story. According to the letter, Miss Davis was planning on teaching her students the following year about Helen Keller. Miss Davis and her students considered Miss Keller to be a great American!

Another letter was from Deborah Hirsh from Brooklyn dated June 2, 1968. Miss Hirsh was so inspired by the work of Miss Keller and Anne Sullivan Macy that she decided that she would work with the blind and/or deaf. Miss Hirsh felt that Miss Keller was a great woman and had shown that if you work hard enough you could achieve your goals. When Miss Keller died Miss Hirsh wrote that we all lost the greatest woman of our time.

You can easily find the letters that our wonderful transcriber is writing about by searching under "Miss Davis" and "Deborah Hirsh" in the Helen Keller online archival collection.

By volunteering to be a transcriber, you are actively helping to promote Helen Keller’s legacy and the freedoms that Helen so passionately believed in. If you wish to volunteer please email Helen Selsdon at hselsdon@afb.net. Thank you!

Image: Frontispiece and title page of Helen Keller’s autobiography The Story of My Life. The book has been translated into over 50 languages since it was first published in serial format in 1902. It continues to be read by millions of children and adults worldwide.

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