April 27, 2017

#05-036: Helen Keller Day

a woman sits in a chair seemingly looking into the distance, holding a large white flower (magnolia?) which she doesn't seem to notice
Helen Keller

Note: Many of us have heard of Helen Keller (sometimes as the butt of cruel jokes), and picture her as a simple, cheerful woman. But she is much more complex than that.

Get Ready: What might be your reaction if you suddenly lost your sight and hearing? Can you imagine anyone rising above such a challenge?

June 27 goes unnoticed by many, but it has great significance for Americans with disabilities.

It's the birthday of American author and political activist Helen Keller. She was born with all of her faculties, but at the age of 19 months she contracted an illness--modern experts speculate it was scarlet fever or meningitis--which left her deaf and blind.

At that time, the great Alexander Graham Bell (see Lesson #08-005)--whose mother and wife were both deaf--was working with deaf children. (Prior to the invention of the telephone, Bell had been working on a "phonautograph," a device that could convert the vibrations of the human voice into a visible written pattern.) Helen Keller's family was referred to Dr. Bell by a physician, and he in turn assigned 20-year-old Anne Sullivan as her instructor.

Visually impaired herself, Miss Sullivan was the first to enable Helen to communicate beyond a few idiosyncratic signs she used with the daughter of her family's cook. Sullivan would form a sign with her hand inside Helen's own, allowing her to feel it, and then associate those signs with an object. The first word Helen learned was "d-o-l-l," to describe a doll Sullivan had given her.

The story of Anne Sullivan's amazing tutelage is told in the play and film The Miracle Worker, the title of which indicates just how amazing Miss Sullivan was. That work in turn is based on The Story of My Life, Helen Keller's autobiography.

Ultimately, despite setbacks, Sullivan's work paid off, and Keller graduated from Radcliffe College, making her the first deaf and blind person to receive a Bachelor's degree.

From there she went on to become a public lecturer, with Anne Sullivan as her interpreter, and an author. Her talks were uplifting; the title of the very first was "Happiness," and to hear a woman so afflicted speak on the joy that life had brought her could not help but inspire.

In addition to her advocacies for the deaf and the blind, she also campaigned for women's right to vote, pacifism, socialism, and birth control.


Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helen_Keller_Day

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. advocacies
  2. afflicted
  3. contracted
  4. disabilities
  5. idiosyncratic
  6. impaired
  7. meningitis
  8. pacifism
  9. speculate
  10. tutelage

  1. got, as a disease; begin to suffer from
  2. teaching; guidance
  3. opposition to war
  4. weakened; damaged
  5. guess; conjecture
  6. handicaps; incapacities
  7. specific to an individual
  8. an inflammation of the covering of the brain and/or spinal cord due to infection
  9. troubled; distressed
  10. causes actively supported

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for April 27, 2017

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. j; 2. i; 3. a; 4. f; 5. g; 6. d; 7. h; 8. c; 9. e; 10. b