While many people know the name of Helen Keller, fewer are likely to be as familiar with the name of Anne Sullivan; she was the teacher, and lifelong companion of her famous student, and for 49 years she stayed by Helen’s side. Born in 1866 to Irish immigrants, Anne went blind as a child after suffering from untreated trachoma. She attended the Perkins School for the Blind in Boston; after a surgery her vision was partially restored, but she remained visually impaired. She met Helen Keller, 14 years her junior, when she was recommended as teacher to the young girl in Tuscumbia, Alabama. Because Helen had been left blind and deaf from a disease when a toddler, she had been trapped in her silent darkness until Anne taught her to break free.
The first major breakthrough came when Anne was able to teach Helen the association between the sign word for “water”, made on one of Helen’s hands, while running water over her other hand. When she realized the connection, and that every object had a unique sign, Helen became an avid student, hungry for the signs that would at last help her communicate to the outside world.
Through Anne’s help, Helen went on to become the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, became a world famous writer and advocate for women’s suffrage, labour and disability rights. The two women travelled to over forty countries as spokeswomen for the rights of the disabled. Helen once said, “Once I knew only darkness and stillness… my life was without past or future… but a little word from the fingers of another fell into my hand that clutched at emptiness, and my heart leaped to the rapture of living.” In this sense, Anne Sullivan is an unsung heroine who rescued Keller from the dark silence, and gave us a legacy of astounding courage, optimism and spirit through the writings of Helen Keller.
Here are ten more of my favourite quotes by Helen Keller:
“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.”
“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.”
“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.”
“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”
“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”
“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”
“People do not like to think. If one thinks, one must reach conclusions. Conclusions are not always pleasant.”
“Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content.”
“Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.”
“I can see, and that is why I can be happy, in what you call the dark, but which to me is golden. I can see a God-made world, not a man-made world.”