Some Thoughts About Helen Keller

Every once in a while, something piques your curiosity.

I saw the stage play The Miracle Worker at Wright State University in September 2012.  It was billed as the true story of Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan.  Personally I can’t imagine navigating the world without sight or hearing, and I know certain compromises/adjustments are necessary to bring a life story to the stage, so that was the trigger to investigate further.

I went to and found what I thought would give me all the answers, a book  (Kindle version, actually) with the ponderous title of The Story of My Life by Helen Keller with Her Letters (1887-1901) and a Supplementary Account of Her Education, including Passages from the Reports and Letters of her Teacher, Anne Mansfield Sullivan by John Albert Macy.  This was also advertised as a Special Edition, Illustrated with additional chapters by Miss Keller, and was dedicated to Alexander Graham Bell, who did so much great work with the deaf.  Of course, there has been a lot written about Helen Keller, and actually I picked this work because the Kindle edition was free.

On the first page is the Editor’s Preface —

This book is in three parts. The first two, Miss Keller’s story and the extracts from her letters, form a complete account of her life as far as she can give it.  Much of her education she cannot explain herself, and since a knowledge of that is necessary to an understanding of what she has written, it was thought best to supplement her autobiography with the reports and letters of her teacher, Miss Anne Mansfield Sullivan.  The addition of a further account of Miss Keller’s personality and achievements may be unnecessary; yet it will help to make clear some of the traits of her character and the nature of the work which she and her teacher have done.

For the third part of the book the Editor is responsible, though all that is valid in it he owes to authentic records and to the advice of Miss Sullivan.

When I started reading about what Miss Keller had written about herself, I was surprised it was written so well.  Surely, she must have had a lot of help!  But no, now I’m not so sure.  The most illuminating part about her education was her letter extracts.  In this section, a learning progression could clearly be seen.  The reports from Miss Sullivan then filled in the gaps.

I finished this with a better appreciation of what Miss Keller had to overcome, and what she was able to accomplish, but also with a special understanding of the genius of her teacher, Anne Sullivan.  It really is quite a story.

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