Helen Keller was a prominent author, political activist, and teacher and the first deaf-blind person to receive a Bachelor of Arts degree. Born in 1880 to parents Arthur H. and Kate Keller, Helen grew up in a loving, comfortable home with her parents and her sister. Her life was forever changed when an illness left her blind and deaf at nineteen months. Keller struggled to communicate with her family, often resorting to outbursts and temper tantrums to get their attention. Desperate, her parents sought the help of Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, who recommended they see Dr. Alexander Graham Bell, who in turn suggested that they contact the Perkins Institute for the Blind. Anne Sullivan, a recent graduate of the Perkins Institute, became Keller's teacher.
Keller recounts how via Sullivan's newly developed teaching methods, she learned both the manual alphabet and braille. Sullivan took every opportunity to teach Keller, often signing the proper names of trees and plants into Keller's hands while taking a relaxing stroll in the country. Gradually, Keller progressed from learning short words and phrases to reading Shakespeare and other classical works. It was around this time that Keller developed a lifelong fascination with literature. She set her sights on attending Radcliffe College, an all-female institution and offshoot of Harvard. Given the unusual nature of her disabilities, she struggled to pass the rigorous entrance exams to Radcliffe, which were not designed to accommodate the blind or deaf. In spite of these obstacles, Keller passed her exams, and she enrolled in classes in the fall. Sullivan came with her to Radcliffe, attending lectures so that she could sign the professor's lessons into Keller's hands. Though she did well in school, a couple of her instructors questioned whether Keller was really able to complete the work for her classes, given her disabilities. Disillusioned, Keller admitted that college life was not as romantic as she thought it would be....
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