noorelsafty[ندعوك للتسجيل في المنتدى أو التعريف بنفسك لمعاينة هذا الرابط]
Helen Adams Keller was born on 27 June 1880 in Tuscumbia, a small rural town in Northwest Alabama, USA. The daughter of Captain Arthur Henley Keller and Kate Adams Keller she was born with full sight and hearing.
Kate Keller was a tall, statuesque blond with blue eyes. She was some twenty years younger than her husband Captain Keller, a loyal southerner who had proudly served in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War.
The house they lived in was a simple, white, clapboard house built in 1820 by Helen’s grandparents. At the time of Helen’s birth the family were far from wealthy with Captain Keller earning a living as both a cotton plantation owner and the editor of a weekly local newspaper, the “North Alabamian”. Helen’s mother, as well as working on the plantation, would save money by making her own butter, lard, bacon and ham.
Helen falls ill
But Helen’s life was to change dramatically. In February 1882, when Helen was nineteen months old, she fell ill. To this day the nature of her ailment remains a mystery. The doctors of the time called it “brain fever”, whilst modern day doctors think it may have been scarlet fever or meningitis.
Whatever the illness, Helen was, for many days, expected to die. When, eventually, the fever subsided, Helen’s family rejoiced believing their daughter to be well again.
However, Helen’s mother soon noticed how her daughter was failing to respond when the dinner bell was rang or when she passed her hand in front of her daughter’s eyes.
It thus became apparent that Helen’s illness had left her both blind and deaf.
The following few years proved very hard for Helen and her family. Helen became a very difficult child, smashing dishes and lamps and terrorising the whole household with her screaming and temper tantrums. Relatives regarded her as a monster and thought she should be put into an institution.
By the time Helen was six her family had become desperate. Looking after Helen was proving too much for them. Kate Keller had read in Charles Dickens’ book “American Notes” of the fantastic work that had been done with another deaf and blind child, Laura Bridgman, and travelled to a specialist doctor in Baltimore for advice. They were given confirmation that Helen would never see or hear again but were told not to give up hope, the doctor believed Helen could be taught and he advised them to visit a local expert on the problems of deaf children. This expert was Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, Bell was now concentrating on what he considered his true vocation, the teaching of deaf children.
Alexander Graham Bell suggested that the Kellers write to Michael Anagnos, director of the Perkins Institution and Massachusetts Asylum for the Blind, and request that he try and find a teacher for Helen. Michael Anagnos considered Helen’s case and immediately recommended a former pupil of the institution, that woman was Anne Sullivan.
Anne Sullivan had lost the majority of her sight at the age of five. By the age of ten, her mother had died and her father deserted her. She and her brother Jimmie were sent to the poorhouse in February 1876.
Anne’s brother died in the poorhouse. It was October 1880 before Anne finally left and went to commence her education at the Perkins Institution. One summer during her time at the institute, Anne had two operations on her eyes, which led to her regaining enough sight to be able to read normal print for short periods of time.
Anne graduated from Perkins in 1886 and began to search for work. Finding work was terribly difficult for Anne, due to her poor eyesight, and when she received the offer from Michael Anagnos to work as the teacher of Helen Keller, a deaf-blind mute, although she had no experience in this area, she accepted willingly.
Helen meets Anne
On 3 March 1887 Anne arrived at the house in Tuscumbia and for the first time met Helen Keller. Anne immediately started teaching Helen to finger spell. Spelling out the word “Doll” to signify a present she had brought with her for Helen. The next word she taught Helen was “Cake”. Although Helen could repeat these finger movements she could not quite understand what they meant. And while Anne was struggling trying to help her understand, she was also struggling to try and control Helen’s continuing bad behaviour.
Anne and Helen moved into a small cottage on the land of the main house to try and get Helen to improve her behaviour. Of particular concern were Helen’s table manners. She had taken to eating with her hands and from the plates of everyone at the table.
Anne’s attempts to improve Helen’s table manners and make her brush her own hair and button her shoes led to more and more temper tantrums. Anne punished these tantrums by refusing to “talk” with Helen by spelling words on her hands.
Over the coming weeks, however, Helen’s behaviour did begin to improve as a bond grew between the two. Then, after a month of Anne’s teaching, what the people of the time called a “miracle” occurred.
Helen had until now not yet fully understood the meaning of words. When Anne led her to the water pump on 5 April 1887, all that was about to change.
As Anne pumped the water over Helen’s hand , Anne spelled out the word water in the girl’s free hand. Something about this explained the meaning of words within Helen, and Anne could immediately see in her face that she finally understood.
Helen later recounted the incident:
“We walked down the path to the well-house, attracted by the fragrance of the honey-suckle with which it was covered. Someone was drawing water and my teacher placed my hand under the spout. As the cool stream gushed over one hand she spelled into the other the word water, first slowly, then rapidly. I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motions of her fingers. Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten, a thrill of returning thought, and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me.”
Helen immediately asked Anne for the name of the pump to be spelt on her hand and then the name of the trellis. All the way back to the house Helen learned the name of everything she touched and also asked for Anne’s name. Anne spelled the name “Teacher” on Helen’s hand. Within the next few hours Helen learnt the spelling of thirty new words.
Helen’s progress from then on was astonishing. Her ability to learn was far in advance of anything that anybody had seen before in someone without sight or hearing. It wasn’t long before Anne was teaching Helen to read, firstly with raised letters and later with braille, and to write with both ordinary and braille typewriters.
Michael Anagnos was keen to promote Helen, one of the numerous articles on her that he wrote said of Helen that “she is a phenomenon”. These articles led to a wave of publicity about Helen with pictures of her reading Shakespeare or stroking her dog appearing in national newspapers.
Helen had become famous, and as well as again visiting Alexander Graham Bell, she visited President Cleveland at the White House. By 1890 she was living at the Perkins Institute and being taught by Anne. In March of that year Helen met Mary Swift Lamson who over the coming year was to try and teach Helen to speak. This was something that Helen desperately wanted and although she learned to understand what somebody else was saying by touching their lips and throat, her efforts to speak herself proved at this stage to be unsuccessful. This was later attributed to the fact that Helen’s vocal chords were not properly trained prior to her being taught to speak.
The Frost King
On 4 November 1891 Helen sent Michael Anagnos a birthday gift of a short story she had written called “The Frost King”. Anagnos was so delighted with the story that he had soon published it in a magazine hailing its importance in literary history.
However, it was soon discovered that Helen’s story was the same as one called “The Frost Fairies” by Margaret Canby. This was ultimately to be the end of Helen and Anne’s friendship with Michael Anagnos. He felt he had been made to appear foolish by what he considered to be Helen’s deception.
There had to be an investigation and it was discovered that Helen had previously been read the story some years before and had obviously remembered it. Helen always claimed not to recall the original story and it should always be remembered that Helen was still only 11 years old, however, this incident created a rift that would never heal between Helen, Anne and Anagnos. It also created great doubt in Helen’s own mind as to whether any of her thoughts were truly her own.