Hellen Keller was born in Tuscumbia, Alabama on June 27, 1880. She was a healthy baby, but that all changed at age 2. When she was 18 months old, Hellen got sick, which left her both blind and deaf. Scientists aren’t sure what the illness was, but they were able to narrow it down to Rubella, Scarlet Fever, Encephalitis, or Meningitis. Hellen was a mute and unruly child until her teacher, Anne Sullivan, taught her how to read Braille and talk. Hellen learned by having signs pressed into her palm, touching people’s lips as they talked, reading and writing Braille, leading to the ability to speak. The first word Hellen said was water, a word that Anne taught her by making Hellen touch the water and signing it into her hand.
Because of her perseverance through all of her hardships, Hellen Keller became a very prominent historical figure. She advocated for the blind and for women’s suffrage, as well as co-founding the American Civil Liberties Union. She was the first blind person to earn a college degree. She even wrote a book and flew a plane despite her disabilities. Hellen was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1953 for her remarkable accomplishments.
The debate over Hellen Keller’s existence has dramatically divided Forest Hills Eastern. Here’s some input from pro-Helleners and anti-Helleners, both fighting vigorously for their view on this historical figure. Eden Hostetter (‘25) is an advocate for Hellen Keller. She doesn’t understand why people could possibly think she wasn’t real. She says all anti-Hellleners are “attention seekers who don’t believe in science.” Eden firmly believes Hellen was real, as does Veronica Gohl (‘23), who brings up a good point in support of Hellen. She says, “There are other deaf and blind people in the world. There are even schools that are specially made for the deaf and blind.” She argues there are other people today who are going through what Hellen Keller went through and they are able to learn through their disability just like Hellen Keller did. Anti-Hellener Maddie Verplank (‘23) dissents, stating, “The evidence that she’s real seems [similar to] a conspiracy theory.”
If you were blind and deaf, do you think you could learn to talk or write a book? While the facts point in support of Hellen Keller, the sheer scale of what she learned and overcame is hard for some students to grasp. To best form your own opinion on Hellen Keller’s life, read up on books about her and the deaf/blind communities!