Helen Keller



Helen Keller :: Helen KellerWhat would it be like to be unable to see anything, hear anything, or say anything? Life for young Helen Keller was like that. She had had an illness before she was two years old that had left her deaf, dumb and blind. After that, it was difficult for her to communicate with anyone. She could only learn by feeling with her hands. This was very frustrating for Helen, her mother and her father.

Helen Keller grew up in Alabama, U.S.A., during the 1880s and 1890s. At that time, people who had lost the use of their eyes, ears and mouth often ended up in charitable institutions. Such a place would provide them with basic food and shelter until they died. Or they could go out on the streets with a beggar’s bowl and ask strangers for money. Since Helen’s parents were not poor, she did not have to do either of these things. But her parents knew that they would have to do something to help her.

One day, when she was six years old, Helen became frustrated that her mother was spending so much time with the new baby. Unable to express her anger, Helen tipped over the baby’s crib, nearly injuring the baby. Her parents were horrified and decided to take the last chance open to them. They would try to find someone to teach Helen to communicate.

A new school in Boston claimed to be able to teach children like Helen. The Kellers wrote a letter to the school in Boston asking for help. In March 1887, a teacher, twenty year old Anne Sullivan arrived at the Keller’s home in Tuscumbia, Alabama.

Anne Sullivan herself had had a very difficult life. Her mother had died when she was eight. Two years later, their father had abandoned Anne and her little brother Jimmy. Anne was nearly blind and her brother had a diseased hip. No one wanted the two handicapped children, so they were sent to a charitable institution. Jimmy died there. At age 14, Anne, who was not quite blind, was sent to the school for the blind in Boston. Since she had not had any schooling before, she had to start in Grade One. Then she had an operation that gave her back some of her eyesight. Since Anne knew what it was like to be blind, she was a sympathetic teacher.

Before Anne could teach Helen anything, she had to get her attention. Because Helen was so hard to communicate with, she was often left alone to do as she pleased. A few days after she arrived, Anne insisted that Helen learn to sit down at the table and eat breakfast properly. Anne told the Kellers to leave, and she spent all morning in the breakfast room with Helen. Finally, after a difficult struggle she got the little girl to sit at the table and use a knife and fork.

Since the Keller family did not like to be strict with Helen, Anne decided that she needed to be alone with her for a while. There was a little cottage away from the big house. The teacher and pupil moved there for some weeks. It was here that Anne taught Helen the manual alphabet. This was a system of sign language. But since Helen couldn’t see, Anne had to make the signs in her hands so that she could feel them. For a long time, Helen had no idea what the words she was learning meant. She learned words like “box” and “cat,” but hadn’t learned that they referred to those objects. One day, Anne dragged Helen to a water pump and made the signs for “water” while she pumped water over Helen’s hands. Helen at last made the connection between the signs and the thing. “Water” was that cool, wet liquid stuff. Once Helen realized that the manual alphabet could be used to name things, she ran around naming everything. Before too long, she began to make sentences using the manual alphabet. She also learned to read and write using the “Square Hand Alphabet” which was made up of raised square letters. Before long, she was also using Braille and beginning to read books.

Helen eventually learned to speak a little, although this was hard for her because she couldn’t hear herself. She went on to school and then to Radcliffe College. She wrote Articles and books, gave lectures, and worked tirelessly to help the blind. The little girl who couldn’t communicate with anyone became, in time, a wonderful communicator.

1 thought on “Helen Keller

  • dumb

    dumb
    source 1
    unable to speak
    She was born deaf and dumb.

    Dumb used in this meaning is old-fashioned and can be offensive. It is better to use speech-impaired instead.

    source 2
    old-fashioned someone who is dumb is not able to speak at all. Many people think that this use is offensive [↪ mute]

    frustrate

    frustrate
    source 1
    to make somebody feel annoyed or impatient because they cannot do or achieve what they want
    What frustrates him is that there’s too little money to spend on the project.

    source 2
     if something frustrates you, it makes you feel annoyed or angry because you are unable to do what you want:
    The fact that he’s working with amateurs really frustrates him.

    end up

    end_up
    source 1
    to find yourself in a place or situation that you did not intend or expect to be in
    end doing something I ended up doing all the work myself.
    + adverb/preposition If you go on like this you’ll end up in prison.
    + adjectiveIf he carries on driving like that, he’ll end up dead.

    source 2
    to be in a particular situation, state, or place after a series of events, especially when you did not plan it:
    He came round for a coffee and we ended up in bed together.
    I wondered where the pictures would end up after the auction

    charitable

    charitable
    source 1
    connected with a charity or charities
    a charitable institution/foundation/trust
    a charitable donation/gift
    (British English) to have charitable status (= to be an official charity)

    source 2
     relating to giving help to the poor [≠ uncharitable; ↪ charity]:
    charitable groups
    a charitable donation

    tip over something

    tip_over
    source 1
    to fall or turn over; to make something do this
    The mug tipped over, spilling hot coffee everywhere.
    We’ll have to tip the sofa up to get it through the door

    source 2
    if you tip something over, or if it tips over, it falls or turns over:
    The candle tipped over and the hay caught fire.
    tip something ↔ over The current was starting to tip the canoe over and I began to panic.

    crib

    crib
    source 1
    a small bed with high sides for a baby or young child

    source 2
    a bed for a baby or young child, with bars on the side to stop the baby from falling out [= cot British English]

    horrify

    horrify
    source 1
    to make somebody feel extremely shocked, disgusted or frightened
    Synonym: appal
    horrify somebody The whole country was horrified by the killings.
    it horrifies somebody to do something It horrified her to think that he had killed someone.
    it horrifies somebody that… It horrified her that he had actually killed someone.
    horrified adjective
    He was horrified when he discovered the conditions in which they lived.
    She gazed at him in horrified disbelief.

    source 2
    to make someone feel very shocked and upset or afraid:
    Henry was horrified by what had happened.
    horrified to see/hear/find etc She was horrified to discover that he loved Rose.

    abandon

    abandon
    source 1
     to leave somebody, especially somebody you are responsible for, with no intention of returning
    abandon somebody The baby had been abandoned by its mother.
    People often simply abandon their pets when they go abroad.
    abandon somebody to something The study showed a deep fear among the elderly of being abandoned to the care of strangers.

    hip

    hip
    source 1
    1 the area at either side of the body between the top of the leg and the waist; the joint at the top of the leg
    She stood with her hands on her hips.
    These jeans are too tight around the hips.
    a hip replacement operation
    the hip bone
    She broke her hip in the fall.

    source 2
    one of the two parts on each side of your body between the top of your leg and your waist:
    She stood there with her hands on her hips glaring at him.
    The old lady had fallen and broken her hip.

    struggle

    struggle
    source 1
     to try very hard to do something when it is difficult or when there are a lot of problems
    struggle (for something)a country struggling for independence
    Shona struggled for breath.
    life as a struggling artist (= one who is very poor)
    struggle to do something They struggled just to pay their bills.
    She struggled for 10 years to achieve success as an actress.

    source 2
     to try extremely hard to achieve something, even though it is very difficult
    struggle to do something She’s struggling to bring up a family alone
    struggle with The airline is struggling with high costs
    struggle for Millions of people are struggling for survival
    struggle against Firms are struggling against a prolonged recessio

    strict

    strict
    source 1
    that must be obeyed exactly
    strict rules/regulations/disciplineShe left strict instructions that she was not to be disturbed.
    There are strict guidelines on how the work is to be carried out.
    He told me in the strictest confidence (= on the understanding that I would tell nobody else).
    She’s on a very strict diet.

    source 2
    expecting people to obey rules or to do what you say [≠ lenient]:
    a strict teacher
    strict about This company is very strict about punctuality.
    strict with The Stuarts are very strict with their children

    cottage

    cottage
    source 1
    a small house, especially in the country
    a charming country cottage with roses around the door
     (British English) a holiday cottage

    source 2
    a small house in the country:
    a country cottage
    We’re staying in a holiday cottage in Dorset.

    WORD FOCUS: house

    types of house: terraced house British English/row house American English one of several houses that are joined together
    detached house British English a house that is not joined to another house
    semi-detached house British English a house that is attached to another house on one side
    cottage a small house in the country
    bungalow British English a small house with one floor
    duplex American English a house that is divided into two separate homes
    apartment also flat British English a set of rooms where someone lives, which is part of a larger building
    condominium/condo American English an apartment in a large building, which is owned by the people who live there
    studio apartment/studio also bedsit British English an apartment with one main room and no separate bedroom
    a very large house: mansion, palace, country house British English, stately home British English
    someone who sells houses and land: estate agent British English, real estate agent American English, realtor American English
    someone who rents a house from another person: tenantsomeone who owns a house and rents it to people: landlord, landladyhouse

    manual

    manual_alphabet
    source 1
    involving using the hands or physical strength
    manual labour/jobs/skillsmanual and non-manual workers

    source 2
    manual work involves using your hands or your physical strength rather than your mind [= blue-collar]
    manual job/labour/worker etc low-paid manual jobs
    People in manual occupations have a lower life expectancy.

    drag

    drag
    source 1
    to pull somebody/something along with effort and difficulty
    I dragged the chair over to the window.
    They dragged her from her bed.
    The sack is too heavy to lift—you’ll have to drag it.
    He quickly dragged a comb through his hair

    source 2
    to pull someone somewhere where they do not want to go, in a way that is not gentle:
    He grabbed her arm and dragged her into the room.

    pump

    pump
    source 1
    a machine that is used to force liquid, gas or air into or out of something
    She washed her face at the pump in front of the inn.
    (British English) a petrol pump
    (North American English) a gas pump
    a foot/hand pump (= that you work by using your foot or hand)
    a bicycle pump

    source 2
     a machine for forcing liquid or gas into or out of something
    water/air/beer etc pump (=for moving water, air etc)
    hand/foot pump (=operated by your hand or foot)
    petrol pump/gas pump (=for putting petrol into cars)
    stomach pump (=for removing the contents of someone’s stomach)

    Square Hand Alphabet
    Square_Hand

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