JUNE 27, 1880–JUNE 1, 1968
Helen Keller was born in Tuscumbia, Alabama, in 1880. She was an activist, author, and lecturer. When she was 19 months old, she became extremely sick, and the illness left her both deaf and blind for the rest of her life. She learned primarily through her sense of touch, with her childhood teacher, Annie Sullivan, tracing letters into her hand to tell her the names of objects.
In adulthood, Keller devoted her life to activism. She advocated for people with disabilities, and through her lectures and books helped to change the public perception that disabled people were helpless and could only lead miserable lives. She also supported many other causes through her lecturing and writing, including labor rights, socialism, the anti-war movement, and women’s suffrage. In 1920, she cofounded the American Civil Liberties Union with Jane Addams and Crystal Eastman, among others.
After traveling for decades on speaking tours, Keller finally returned to her Connecticut home in her 80s. In 1964, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest government honor given to non-military members. She died in 1968 at age 87.
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