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In Their Own Words: Helen Keller

Review

In Their Own Words: Helen Keller

This small biography is a valuable reference on the life of Helen Keller and covers a fascinating period of history. Born in 1880, she died in 1968. Her friends included Alexander Graham Bell, Mark Twain, and Eleanor Roosevelt. Rutherford B. Hayes was President of the United States when she was born, and Lyndon B. Johnson was President when she died. She personally met every President from Grover Cleveland to JFK.

From the time she was two-years-old until her death, she was unable to see or hear. She could speak only with painful effort, both for her and for her listeners. Without the ability to hear how words sound, she formed the spoken words intelligibly with great difficulty. Yet she accomplished a great deal in her lifetime. She graduated from Radcliffe College in 1904. She wrote many books, worked in vaudeville, and traveled the world. She was one of the most famous people in the world during her lifetime, and she remains so to this day.

Helen outlived her teacher and companion, Annie Sullivan, by 32 years. What a terrible loss that would have been for Helen! Annie had been beside her wherever she went since Helen was seven years old. Everything Helen ever accomplished was due to Annie. Before Annie Sullivan came into her life, Helen didn't even know what a word was --- that words stood for things and ideas. Annie went through college with Helen, tapping out the lectures into Helen's hand and damaging her own eyes in order to read all the textbooks and spell them into Helen's hand, letter by letter.

Helen's second companion, Polly Thomson, died in 1960. Helen lived another eight years, with a third companion, Winnie Corbally. It must have been hard for somebody blind and deaf to adjust to such close living with different people, temperaments, and ways of doing things, but Helen remained patient and optimistic. Patty Duke, who portrayed Helen in The Miracle Worker said of her: "... she was so jolly, like a jolly grandmother. I had expected serious and sweet, but not jolly, not someone who loved to laugh."

When asked whether she believed in life after death, Helen said yes. "It is no more than passing from one room to another. But there's a difference for me, you know. Because in that other -- room -- I will be able to see." Helen Keller passed into that other room on June 1, 1968, just 26 days short of her 88th birthday.

Reviewed by Tamara Penny on November 29, 2001

In Their Own Words: Helen Keller
by George Sullivan

  • Publication Date: November 29, 2001
  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 0439095557
  • ISBN-13: 9780439095556