Helen Keller Timeline

A brief timeline of Helen Keller's life and work.

1880
Helen Keller is born in Tuscumbia, Alabama on June 27.
1882

In February, Helen contracts scarlet fever or meningitis and becomes deaf and blind at the age of 19 months.

1886

Meets Alexander Graham Bell in July

1887

On March 3, Anne Sullivan, a graduate of Perkins School for the Blind who is visually impaired, arrives in Tuscumbia, Alabama, to begin teaching Helen.

1887

On April 5, Helen feels water from a cup as Sullivan fingerspells "W-A-T-E-R" into her hand, and relaizes that objects have names. Sullivan wrote, "A new light came into her face..., Within hours she had learned thirty new vocabulary words."

1888

In September, Anne brings Helen to Perkins to further her education and to meet other children who are blind and deafblind.

1891

"Frost King" episode.

1894

Helen attended the Wright-Humason School in New York City.

1895

Meets Mark Twain for the first time; they remain friends for the rest of Twain's life.

1896

Helen's father, Captain Arthur Keller dies.

1900

Begins her studies at Radcliffe College (now part of Harvard University) in September.

1903

The Story of My Life, Keller's autobiography and her first book, is published.

1904

Graduates cum laude from Radcliffe, the first person who is deafblind to ear a college degree.

1904

Purchases home in Wrentham, Massachusetts.

1905

On May 3, Anne Sullivan marries John Macy, who joins the Wrentham household.

1906

Keller is appointed to the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind.

1908

Publishes The World I Live In.

1914

Polly Thomson joins the household as a secretary, beginning her lifelong service to Keller.

1916

Falls in love with and plans to elope with Peter Fagan(?), but her family objects and prevents the marriage.

1917

Moves to household in Forest Hills on Long Island in New York.

1918

Braille is established as the single writing system in the United States for people who were blind, due in part to the advocacy of Helen Keller. Prior to this it was necessary to memorize several different writing systems.

1919

Stars in silent film, Deliverance. See clips here.

1919

Assisted by Sullivan, Keller begins a successful five-year carer on the vaudeville circuit.

1921

Kate Keller, Helen's mother, dies.

1919-1924

Lectures and tours in the United States. World fame increases.

1924

Begins life-long work as the public spokesperson for the American Foundation for the Blind.

1925

In an address to the Lions Club International, Keller challenges them to become "Knights of the Blind." The Lions have proudly continued their commitment to preventing blindness and aiding the visually impaired across the globe to this day.

1927

Publishes My Religion.

1929

Publishes Midstream: My Later Life.

1936

Anne Sullivan Macy, Keller's beloved Teacher and companion, dies on October 20.

1937

Visits Japan for the first time, where she is welcomed with great warmth and enthusiasm.

1938

Publishd Helen Keller's Journal, 1936-1937.

1938

Meets Eleanor Roosevelt, who remains a friend for many years.

1939

Moves to Arcan Ridge, her home fro the rest of her life, in Easton, Connecticut. 

1943-1946

Visits wounded and blinded war veterans in military hospitals, encouraging them to create new ambitions.

1946

Begins a series of world tours that took her to 35 countries in 11 years. Everywhere she goes, she advocates on behalf of people with disabilities, inspiring many governments to establish schools for the blind and deaf.

1952

Keller receives the Gold Medal award from The National Institute of Social Sciences for her service to humanity. 

1954

Ivy Green, the house where Helen Keller was born, is purchased, restored, and becomes a National Historic Landmark. It is an attraction for visitors from all over the world. 

1955

Wins an Oscar for Helen Keller in Her Story, a documentary about her life, directed by Nancy Hamilton.

1955

Publishes Teacher - Anne Sullivan Macy. 

1956

The Miracle Worker debuts on Broadway, with Patty Duke as Helen Keller and Anne Bancroft as Anne Sullivan.

1960

Meets with President John F. Kennedy, the tenth and last United States President she met.

1961

Helen has a stroke and makes no further public appearances.

1964

Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon B. Johnson. This is the highest civilian honor bestowed by the United States.

1965

In an election of visitors to the New York World's Fair, Helen Keller is one of the twenty inductees into the Women's Hall of Fame, tying with Eleanor Roosevelt for the most votes.

1968

On June 1, Helen dies peacefully a few weeks before her 88th birthday at Arcan Ridge, her beloved home in Connecticut.

1968

On June 5, Helen Keller's memorial service in the National Cathedral is attended by 1,200 mourners, and the choral music is performed by the choir of Perkins School for the Blind. Her ashes are interred next to those of Anne Sullivan, marked with a braille plaque that is frequently worn down and replaced.

1999

More than 30 years after her death, Helen Keller regularly appears on lists of the world's most influential and inspirational people. In 1999 she is on the Time Magazine 100 list of the most important figures of the 20th century. 

Sources

Chronology of Life and Selected Quotes of Helen Keller. Compiled by Robert Moris and Carol Dollar of the Helen Keller Eye Research Foundation, September, 1993. 

Herrmann, Dorothy, Helen Keller: A Life.

Lash, Joseph P., Helen and Teacher.

Nielsen, Kim E., Beyond the Miracle Worker.