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Perkins School for the Blind

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This collection contains memorabilia related to Helen Keller including medals and awards as well as commemorative items.


1 linear foot (1 box)



Processed by:

Susanna Coit, 2018, 2019 ; Biography updated by Susanna Coit, 2022

Biographical/Historical notes:

Helen Keller (1880-1968) was born on June 27, 1880 in Tuscumbia, Alabama to retired army Captain Arthur Keller and his second wife, Kate. Helen had a younger brother (Phillips Brooks) and sister (Mildred), and two older half brothers. When she was nineteen months old, she became ill with a very high fever that ultimately left her deaf and blind. Doctors at the time diagnosed this as “brain fever” or “brain congestion,” but experts today believe that she most likely suffered from scarlet fever or meningitis.

Helen Keller developed her own system of hand gestures to communicate with her family and by the time she was seven she had nearly 60 such gestures.  Nonetheless, she was frequently frustrated by the inability to express herself.  When Anne Sullivan arrived to teach her in 1887, Keller quickly learned to fingerspell, as well as to read braille and raised type, and to write in block letters.

After a year and a half of homeschooling, Sullivan decided that Keller would benefit from the resources of a school. In 1888, Sullivan brought Keller to study at Perkins Institution and Massachusetts School for the Blind (now Perkins School for the Blind). She became a student at the Wright-Humason School for the Deaf in New York in 1894 before attending the Cambridge School for Young Ladies in 1896 to prepare for Radcliffe College. In 1904 she graduated cum laude from Radcliffe and became the first person with deafblindness to receive a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Helen Keller was a prolific writer, publishing 14 books and numerous articles.  She traveled across the globe, advocating for social issues, such as women’s suffrage and rights for people who are blind or deafblind. She received numerous awards throughout her life for her humanitarian efforts.

Sources of information:

McGinnity, B.L., Seymour-Ford, J. and Andries, K.J. (2004) Helen Keller FAQs. Perkins History Museum, Perkins School for the Blind, Watertown, MA.



It is the responsibility of the user to obtain permission to publish from the owner of the copyright (the institution, the creator of the record, the author or his/her transferees, heirs, legates, or literary executors). The user agrees to indemnify and hold harmless Perkins School for the Blind, its officers, employees, and agents from and against all claims made by any person asserting that he or she is an owner of copyright.

Credit line/Citation:

AG88 Helen Keller Memorabilia. Perkins School for the Blind Archives, Watertown, MA.


This collection includes memorabilia related to Helen Keller. Objects include awards and medals as well as commemorative pins and commemorative plates. It also contains a rock from Helen Keller’s house in Wrentham, Massachusetts and other souvenir objects.


The collection is arranged in one series.

List of digital collections related to Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan that are available online.

Container List:

Box: 1 Series 1:

  • American Foundation for the Blind coin, 1971
  • Helen Keller commemorative plate, 1980
  • Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan postage stamp commemorative pins, 1980
  • Rock taken from stone all at Helen Keller’s former home in Wrentham, Mass., donated 1989
  • George H.W. Bush Anne Sullivan Medal and Certificate, 1992
  • Helen Keller Alabama commemorative quarter (enlarged, souvenir), 2003
  • Bowl made from oak tree on Ivy Green property, c. 2016
  • Civitan International Helen Keller Library ornament, 2018
  • Two glass decanters, unknown date
  • Unknown medal, unknown date
  • Helen Keller address plate, unknown date
  • Helen Keller commemorative pin, unknown date
  • Japanese souvenir, unknown date
  • Plate reading “Gift of Helen Keller,” unknown date
  • Cross pen constructed from wood of the original Helen Keller Public Library circulation desk from 1967, unknown date

Subject headings:

  • Keller, Helen, 1880-1968
  • Sullivan, Anne, 1866-1936
  • Bush, George, 1924-2018

Explore more resources from the Archives

Learn more about our collections, including digitized materials, and resources related to the history of Perkins School for the Blind and the history of education for people with blindness or deafblindness.