Helen Keller's Life and Legacy

An Extraordinary Life

The name Helen Keller is known around the world as a symbol of courage in the face of overwhelming odds, yet she was much more than a symbol. She was a woman of luminous intelligence, high ambition and great accomplishment who devoted her life to helping others. 

A brief timeline:

1880: On June 27, Helen Keller is born in Tuscumbia, Alabama.

1882:  Following a bout of illness, Helen loses her sight and hearing.

1887: Helen’s parents hire Anne Sullivan, a graduate of the Perkins School for the Blind, as Helen’s tutor. Anne first teaches Helen that objects have names, and then how to use her fingers to spell them. Eventually, Helen learns to communicate via sign language, to read and write in Braille, to touch-lip read, and to speak.

1900: After attending schools in Boston and New York, Helen matriculates at Radcliffe College.

1903: Helen’s first book, an autobiography called, “The Story of My Life,” is published.

1904: Helen graduates cum laude from Radcliffe, becoming the first deafblind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree.

1915: Helen, already a vocal advocate for people with disabilities, co-founds the organization that will later become Helen Keller International, to support veterans blinded in combat. Over time, the mission expands to include combatting the causes and consequences of blindness, poor health and malnutrition.

1920: Helen helps found the ACLU.

1924: Helen joins the American Foundation for the Blind. She serves as a spokesperson and ambassador for the Foundation until her death.

1946: Helen tours the world on behalf of the American Foundation for Overseas Blind, continuing her advocacy for people with vision impairment.

1955: Helen wins an Oscar for a documentary about her life.

1961: Helen suffers a stroke and retires from public life.

1964: Helen is awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon Johnson.

1968: On June 1, Helen dies peacefully at her home in Connecticut.

A Remarkable Legacy

Founded by Helen Keller in 1915, Helen Keller International is one of the world’s premier international not-for-profit organizations dedicated to preventing blindness and reducing malnutrition. Working worldwide, we combat the root causes and extended consequences of blindness and malnutrition by establishing affordable and sustainable programs that are based on scientific evidence, original research and an unwavering determination to succeed against challenges that can too often be seen as insurmountable.

The results of our efforts are dramatic and wide-ranging. They perpetuate the indomitable spirit of Helen Keller, whose words continue to frame our values, and to guide us today:

“The welfare of each is bound up in the welfare of all.”