Helen Keller was the first person who was deafblind to attend and graduate from college: Radcliffe in 1904. It wasn’t until more than 50 years later that Perkins alumnus Robert Smithdas became the second person who was deafblind to graduate from college.
In 1902, Helen Keller became the first person who was deafblind to write a book. Her autobiography, The Story of My Life, was the first of 14 books she wrote in her lifetime. She is pictured on the right at her typewriter.
Helen Keller toured on the vaudeville circuit and was very popular. She delivered a lecture and responded wittily to questions from the audience. She enjoyed feeling their applause through the floorboards of the stage. She is pictured on the left in one of the vaudeville posters.
Helen Keller was a founding member of the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind, the nation’s first agency to provide services to adults who are blind.
In 1918, United States teachers adopted braille as the official writing system for people who are blind, thanks in great part to Helen Keller. She was a very eloquent and influential proponent for this elegant writing system.
In 1924, Helen Keller began her lifelong association with American Foundation for the Blind. She worked tirelessly for the rights of people who are blind to have full access to education, employment, and the responsibilities of citizenship. She extended her advocacy to the Lions Club, urging them to become “knights for the blind.” Intensely proud of their association with Keller, Lions International has ever since been devoted to preventing visual impairment and assisting people who are blind all over the world.
In the 1940s and 1950s, Helen Keller visited 39 countries to persuade their governments to establish schools for people who were blind and deaf. Many countries did just that, and Keller is revered around the world to this day.
During and after World War II, Helen Keller visited veterans’ hospitals to bring encouragement to hundreds of blinded war veterans.
In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson awarded Keller the Presidential Medal of Freedom, one of the highest civilian honors, for her tireless work around the world on behalf of people with disabilities.
Helen Keller met every US president, beginning with Grover Cleveland and ending with JFK. She also met other famous people like silent film icon Charlie Chaplin and inventor of the telephone Alexander Graham Bell, whom she is pictured with on the right.
In October 2009, the state of Alabama installed a statue of Helen Keller in the National Statuary Hall in Congress. She is the first person with disabilities to be so honored.
Helen Keller was a lifelong dog lover, and always had a house full of them. She especially admired Akitas, and was the first person to introduce the Japanese breed to the US. She’s seen here with her Akita, Kenzan-go. Nicknamed “Go-Go,” he was an official gift from the Japanese government and older brother to Kamikaze-go, the first Akita Ms. Keller introduced to America.
Read our Helen Keller FAQ from her graduation from Perkins School for the Blind.