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© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Call No.: 176
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Helen Keller, 1880-1968
Title: Papers of Helen Keller, 1900-1969
Quantity: .42 linear feet (1 file box)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Correspondence, photographs, etc., of Helen Keller, a deafblind humanitarian and author.
There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Papers of Helen Keller, 1898-2003 (SC 11.).
At the age of nineteen months, due to an attack of scarlet fever, Helen Keller lost her senses of sight and hearing. Helen's parents requested that a teacher from the Perkins Institution in Boston, Massachusetts, be sent to instruct the child soon thereafter. Miss Anne M. Sullivan was sent to Helen's home in Tuscumbia, Alabama, to train her according to the methods of Dr. S. G. Howe. From 1888 onwards, at the Perkins Institution, and under Miss Sarah Fuller at the Horace Mann School in New York, she not only learned to read, write, and talk, but became proficient to some degree in the ordinary education curriculum, several languages, and mathematics. Unfortunately, no exact record of the steps of her education was kept. In 1900, Miss Keller entered Radcliffe College where, with the aid of tutors and special proctors (and, of course, her friend and teacher Anne Sullivan Macy, who remained with her throughout), Helen graduated cum laude in 1904. After her college education, Miss Keller began working extensively in causes for the blind all over the world. She made many tours and held fund-raising benefits for the American Foundation for the Blind. During and after World War II she was untiring in her efforts to aid blinded veterans, orphans, and refugees. Various honors, awards, and honorary degrees and citations were conferred upon Miss Keller by foreign governments and civic, educational, and welfare organizations throughout the U.S. Helen Keller represents one of the most remarkable cases to date of a person who overcame natural disabilities to develop knowledge and an exceptionally wide general culture. Her writings include: Optimism (1903), "The Song of the Stone Wall" (1910), Helen Keller's Journal (1938), Teacher (1955), and others.
The Helen Keller Collection covers the period from 1900 to 1968. The papers in the collection contain biographical data in the form of correspondence, photographs, and newspaper clippings. Among the correspondence are letters by Ella J. Spooner and others about Miss Keller's Radcliffe experience, which help to shed some light on some of the difficulties she encountered in obtaining her degree. Also included are fund-raising letters written by Miss Keller at various points of her life-long work with the American Foundation for the Blind. A tour itinerary from a 1947 trip to the Far East gives an indication of Miss Keller's varied activities in finding help for blind people all over the world, and a 1910 poem by Miss Keller reveals her spirit and eloquence in the face of great obstacles. Some photographs of Helen Keller and famous people with whom she met from time to time are also in this collection, as well as more personal photographs of this humanitarian.