Helen Keller's story begins in Tuscumbia, a small town in northern Alabama, in 1880. Her family's house was called Ivy Green, and she particularly loved the garden and lands surrounding the house. After a childhood illness made her blind and deaf, Helen often explored the gardens by sight and found solace in nature. Because she lived in such a small, rural town, her parents had to consult a doctor in Baltimore to find help for Helen. This doctor sent the family to consult Alexander Graham Bell in Washington, D.C., who arranged for Keller's teacher, Anne Sullivan, to come to Tuscumbia from the Perkins Institute in Boston.
In 1888, Keller visited the Perkins Institution for the Blind with Anne Sullivan and then went to Cape Cod, where she first experienced the ocean. In 1893, Keller attended the World's Fair in Chicago with Alexander Graham Bell and the inauguration of President Cleveland in Washington. She also visited Niagara. In 1896, Keller went to Cambridge, Massachusetts to prepare to enter Radcliffe, the sister school of Harvard at the time. She lived in Cambridge for several years while attending Radcliffe.