What "singular coincidence" does Helen refer to in chapter 1?

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The "singular coincidence" of which Helen speaks in chapter 1 is that one of her ancestors was the first teacher of the deaf in the Swiss city of Zurich. What's interesting here is that he became a pioneer in deaf education in much the same way that Helen's companion Annie Sullivan blazed a trail in relation to educating the blind. It was Annie who memorably helped Helen to establish a connection between herself and the world around her through the power of touch.

Even more remarkable is the fact that Helen's parents were introduced to Annie through the good offices of Alexander Graham Bell, the famous inventor of the telephone, and himself a pioneer in the field of deaf education. It's truly a happy coincidence that the Keller name has been linked with not one, but two trailblazers in the field of deaf education, living in two different eras in two separate countries.

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In the first chapter of her memoir, Helen Keller briefly talks about her ancestors. She notes that one, a Swiss man, was the first to teach the deaf in Zurich, Switzerland, and that he also wrote a book on educating the deaf. To her mind, this is a "singular coincidence," because Keller herself ended up deaf and blind, and progressive methods of education for people with these disabilities made a huge difference in her life. Keller says of her ancestor,

One of my Swiss ancestors was the first teacher of the deaf in Zurich and wrote a book on the subject of their education—rather a singular coincidence . . .

She also notes, a bit wryly, that everyone has notable and not-so-notable figures among their ancestors, as if to hint that she doesn't want to make too much out of those who came before her. Primarily, she hopes in her memoir to focus on what happened in her own life that made a difference and to show that it is possible to overcome heavy obstacles.

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