Helen Adams Keller (June 27, 1880 – June 1, 1968) was an American author, political activist and lecturer. Helen was born a perfectly normal healthy child but when she was 19 months old, she contracted an illness which left her unable to see or hear.
She did develop some ability to communicate with her family using signs but it was very limited.
When she was seven years old her family appointed a governess, Anne Sullivan, who immediately started to try to teach Helen to communicate by spelling words on to her hand. Anne Sullivan tried to teach her the to spell out words such as d o l l and m u g, but Helen could not understand that every object had its own unique word. It was only when Anne took Helen outside to the pump and ran water over her hands spelling out the word w a t e r, that Helen began to understand what her teacher was trying to do.
“Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten–a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that “w-a-t-e-r” meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand.
I learned a great many new words that day.
Gradually from naming an object we advance step by step until we have traversed the vast distance between our first stammered syllable and the sweep of thought in a line of Shakespeare”
Water and an inspired teacher, it seemed were the keys that unlocked her closed world. She went on to become a prolific speaker, writer, social activist and campaigner.