Helen Keller’s autobiography, The Story of My Life, covers the first part of the author’s life, up until her graduation from Radcliffe College. It is strongly focused on her education.
In the second year of her life, Keller became seriously ill, and her eventual recovery left her deaf and blind. Her parents took her to seeing one of the country’s leading oculists, Dr. Chisholm of Baltimore, who said that he could do nothing to cure her blindness, but that she could still be educated.
In 1887, Anne Mansfield Sullivan came to the Kellers’ home to be Keller’s teacher. Sullivan taught her pupil to spell out letters into her hand and, one day, managed to connect in her mind the cool, fresh sensation of running water with the word “water.” The following year, Keller went to study at the Perkins Institution for the Blind, and in 1890 she began to learn the elements of speech under the tuition of Sarah Fuller, principal of the Horace Mann School. Upon returning home, she found that she could speak well enough for her family to understand her.
Keller describes the ways in which she learned to experience the world through touch. In 1893, she visited the World’s Fair, where she was allowed to touch the exhibits. She also enjoyed attending the theater, where she would sometimes be able to imagine the expressions of the actors after running her fingers over their faces.
In 1900, Keller matriculated at Radcliffe College and found that, by working very hard, she was able to keep up with her hearing and seeing classmates. She pays tribute to all the people who helped her, particularly Anne Sullivan but also Alexander Graham Bell and many other remarkable people it has been her privilege to know.