“There were barriers still, it is true, but barriers that could in time be swept away.”

—Helen Keller

Helen Keller lived in what she described as a world of "white darkness." Born in Alabama in 1880, she was a year and a half old when a case of scarlet fever or meningitis left her deaf and blind. As she grew, she made signs and gestures, but her inability to truly communicate often left her a frustrated and angry child. Once, she locked her mother in the pantry for three hours, and another time she threw her baby sister out of a cradle.

When Keller was 7, her parents hired Anne Sullivan to be Keller 's tutor. With Sullivan’s help, Keller learned the manual alphabet and began to learn some words, though for a month Keller signed words without knowing what they meant. Then one day Sullivan held Keller 's hand under a water pump while signing "water." Keller suddenly realized that the motions of her fingers had meaning.

"That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free!" she later said. "There were barriers still, it is true, but barriers that could in time be swept away."

During the next decade, Keller worked on sweeping away those barriers. She learned to read Braille, to read lips and to write in normal script. Eventually she learned to speak. She attended schools for the deaf and blind, and, later, mainstream schools. It took Keller longer than her classmates to study, but she excelled. She wrote her memoir, “The Story of My Life,” at age 21, the first of almost a dozen books she authored. She graduated from Radcliffe College, the women's counterpart to Harvard University, in 1904, and was the first deaf and blind person to graduate from a college.

Keller also learned to paddle a canoe, ride a horse and a tandem bicycle, and play chess and checkers. She traveled the country as a lecturer, and until 1922 she even performed in vaudeville shows.

By the age of 24, Keller was already more accomplished and famous than any other deaf and blind person in modern history. But she also had a keen sense of the needs and suffering of others. Having "swept away" her own barriers as much as she could, she began to focus on doing the same for others.

Keller believed in equal rights and economic opportunities for all people. She became involved with the Women's Suffrage movement, the Socialist movement, and labor unions. In 1917 she founded an organization that would later become Helen Keller International, with the aim of preventing and treating blindness in impoverished nations. This organization still operates in 23 countries. Keller joined the American Foundation for the Blind in 1924 and advocated for policy and technology to allow the blind to live fuller lives. During her lifetime she traveled to 35 countries on five continents. Her visits inspired blind citizens, but also prompted legal and social changes that improved conditions for them.

Keller died in Easton, Connecticut, in 1968, a few weeks short of her 88th birthday. In her life she had reached far beyond her own darkness to shape a more compassionate future for the world. As Senator Lister Hill of Alabama said in her eulogy, "Her spirit will endure as long as man can read and stories can be told of the woman who showed the world there are no boundaries to courage and faith."

Foresight. Pass It On!

This billboard about Foresight features Helen Keller (1880-1968); first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, author, political activist, lecturer.

Pass It On®

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Your Comments
Jenna from St.joe school DECEMBER 1, 2022
We miss so much when we only view the world with our eyes. It is not enough to look at the world, we must use all our senses to experience life.

Elizabeth from St.joe school DECEMBER 1, 2022
I used to think Blindness was the worst thing, but after my granddaughter was born blind and now is six years old, she has taught me more in life then ever expected. Elliana is a teacher to all who come in contact with her.

Jenna Herritt from Kent state APRIL 14, 2020
This is my favorite because it's wonderfully inspiring,and it has a neat tribute.

Isabelle from America  NOVEMBER 9, 2018
She is a inspiration for people like her and others.

Rayne from Indianan NOVEMBER 8, 2018
Helen is so inspirational! Even though she was blind and deaf that didn't stop her! I don't even think I could do what she did, and i'm a fully functional human being, and i'm 11! Helen if you are reading this (even though you're dead) know that I respect you with a the bottom of my heart.

Kaylee from Georgia JUNE 2, 2018
I did a book report on her!

Anonymous OCTOBER 20, 2016
love her

Anonymous SEPTEMBER 22, 2016
Love it so so much

Anomonus from 6C APRIL 26, 2016
Hellen is my fave leader

Mary from Oregon APRIL 4, 2016
Beautiful Story

awesomeface from md DECEMBER 20, 2015
She's so cool!

adrian from utah OCTOBER 21, 2015
this is so cool

Carissa from Home NOVEMBER 4, 2013
Helen Keller is a good example of perserverence

Ryan Mao from Chino NOVEMBER 3, 2013
Be inspired and triumphed!

Camryn from California NOVEMBER 3, 2013
It is amazing what Helen Keller did because many people can not do the thing like that and think that it brings up the hopes for many familys that have a blind child and it really rasise awarness.

Camryn from Diamond Bar NOVEMBER 2, 2013
I think anyone can follow their dreams if they are determinde .

thomas from logan FEBRUARY 22, 2013
I loved your story.

gabby from ? FEBRUARY 4, 2013
a great insperation to many like her , this teaches many people they can do anything they set their mind to

Jaret son from Europe SEPTEMBER 28, 2012

Madison Pembleton from Omaha,Ne FEBRUARY 14, 2012
Her spirit will endure as long as man can read and stories can be told of the woman who showed the world there are no boundaries to courage and faith." That is the nicest saying i can parcilly hear right now i am sick and i only talk in Monotone i sound really bad... but that made my day better........... :)

Sarah Willson from Pheonix Arizona MARCH 28, 2011
I was a sad,lonesome,deaf and blind 33 year old woman with two beautiful children. But, after reading what you have done with your life,you have changed mine!!! Thanks Helen Keller you are (MY) hero!!!

Mrs.Bailey from Two Rivers Magnat Middle School FEBRUARY 7, 2011
This is very cool and interesting.

austin from owosso JANUARY 31, 2011
i watched a movie on her =)

noah from owosso JANUARY 31, 2011
Helen Keller was an inspiration to all blind and deaf people.

Austin from owosso JANUARY 31, 2011
Pure inspiration.

Lisa Kozma from Courtice, ON JANUARY 22, 2011
When I was in grade 7, I did a book project on Helen Keller.

aaliyah d from columbia sc OCTOBER 7, 2010
She is a really smart person. And I'm glad she lived a long, happy life.

Terry I. from Utah JUNE 9, 2010
She will be an inspriration for others, this will never stop.

Chichano from Addia Ababa , Ethiopia JANUARY 20, 2010
She teaches us the moral that nothing is impossible!!!!

Chantel W. from Williamsport, PA JANUARY 6, 2010
Here's somebody who didn't let anything stand in her way. More people should be like her in life.

Teresa I. from Utah DECEMBER 12, 2009
This is always an uplifting billboard. She teaches us all.

Scott C. from New Castle, Indiana AUGUST 29, 2009
Helen Keller overcame overwhelming odds to gain her own voice. She had so many qualities we should all aspire to: persistence, courage, and intelligence. It should also not go unmentioned that her teacher, Annie Sullivan, was just as brave.

Elisabet D. from São João del Rei, MG - Brazil AUGUST 5, 2009
I do really consider this value important. I think when your main objective is to help people there is nothing unreachable or impossible! You have to believe in yourself!

Olalla B. from Galicia, Spain JUNE 18, 2009
I chose this value because I think it is very important to surpass yourself even if you feel you can't. I'm sure that sometimes a lot of determination can achieve more than a lot of intelligence and in our century, helping people who have some disability is very important because nurtures our humanity.

Nicole C. from Bakersfield, CA MAY 22, 2009
This billboard is awesome because you can do anything no matter what... Like how Helen Keller achieved in life even though she was blind and deaf....

Kevin G. from Brookings,Oregon MAY 19, 2009
It must have been hard for her to make it around without seeing or hearing and knowing what's going on. I can't imagine how she made it so far as 88 years.

Enny W. from Jefferson City MAY 11, 2009
Helen is a person who believes in her ability and has hope she will be a better person. She wanted to be greater than any other person around her expected.

Summer H. from Minneapolis, MN FEBRUARY 15, 2009
Helen Keller has always been an inspiration to me. She was my H.D project 2008-2009.

Ryan, H. from Gaithersburg MD, United States of America FEBRUARY 4, 2009
Helen Keller inspired and continues to inspire many. She found time to help many people to overcome obstacles in the face of adversity. Thank you Helen.

Amy P. from Barrie, Ontario JANUARY 12, 2009
She is truly my hero. And though I have so much of my life left to live, I already know the things we need to appreciate. She is an inspiration to people all around the world.

Molly M. from Renfrew, ON, Canada JANUARY 12, 2009
When I was little, I used to always take out the book about Helen Keller that was in my school library. I loved the sign language.

Joanna H. from Bay City, Michigan OCTOBER 3, 2008
You could not see nor hear yet, because of friends like Anne your entire life changed. You were able to go to college and travel the world. You inspire us all. Thanks for living.

Dana Y. from California JULY 26, 2008
An intersting quote I once read said, "When the door of opportunity is locked, look for a window." Helen Keller is living proof that this is true and that there is no such thing as impossible.

Mehek M from Orlando JUNE 14, 2008
Helen Keller is the one person I look to when I hurt the most. She is my idol, my friend and my inspiration.

Adib M MAY 4, 2008
Bless her soul, she was an inspiration to all.

Missy C. from Wisconsin APRIL 2, 2008
This billboard showed up in my area while I was writing a report on her and got me very exicted.

Nakhone K. from Los Angeles, California USA DECEMBER 6, 2007
When I close my eyes, I see beauty in all the colors of the Rainbow! In loving memory of Marc P. Fournier

Jeannie K. from McMinnville, Oregon USA NOVEMBER 27, 2007
Helen Keller is such an inspiration to me. When I think of her, tears well up in my eyes. She's just so amazing!

Chandra T. from New York, USA NOVEMBER 15, 2007
What do we have and what can we do with what we have? The abundance of our human potential is found in the answer to this question. What an inspiring demonstration Helen Keller has shown us.

Salma Islam from Dhaka, Bangladesh OCTOBER 18, 2007
Helen showed the world the light she held despite the darkness she was given.

Morgan A. from Oshawa, Ontario, Canada SEPTEMBER 23, 2007

Simran S. from Bangladesh SEPTEMBER 21, 2007
I am very inspired by Helen Keller because I am also blind.

Geoffrey A. from Mumbai, India SEPTEMBER 21, 2007
A truly marvellous and exceptionally wonderful inspiration to all those people of the world to whom life is not all that rosy. She achieved so much with so's not what we haven't got that counts, but what we do with what we have!

Barazae M. from Tanzania SEPTEMBER 21, 2007
Really she shows that the strength of the soul does not come from outward accomplishments.

Adeamusat R. from Lagos, Nigeria SEPTEMBER 21, 2007
Keller's life shows that there is more to life than meets the eyes.

Ashok J. from Visakhapatnam, India SEPTEMBER 21, 2007
Great Example for Many

Ndozire K. from Uganda SEPTEMBER 21, 2007
"A peace of mind is not a mind that is not thinking but a mind that thinks successfully"

Matsoha FM from Maseru, Lesotho SEPTEMBER 21, 2007
Thank You very much; knowledge is strength.

Tess D.J.C. from Saudi Arabia SEPTEMBER 20, 2007
Helen's innate desire to get out of her infirmities, made her see, hear and speak... There's always a way for people who have a will...

Steve B. from South Korea SEPTEMBER 20, 2007
Hope in the face of adversity gives us strength to face the challenges life presents us with.

Kenny H. from Louisiana, USA SEPTEMBER 20, 2007
Helen Keller, a hero. What an ispiration to us all!

Gaylord G. from Manila, Philippines SEPTEMBER 5, 2007
Her darkness has been filled with the light of intelligence. She showed the world that courage and faith have no boundaries.

Teresa I. from Utah JULY 29, 2007
I used to think Blindness was the worst thing, but after my granddaughter was born blind and now is six years old, she has taught me more in life then ever expected. Elliana is a teacher to all who come in contact with her.

Cristi B from Kemah,Texas USA JULY 9, 2007
These few lived their lives inspiring many..

Tanuja K from Maharastra, India JUNE 27, 2007
This is real fab...

Wendy G. from Pennsylvania, USA JUNE 23, 2007
We miss so much when we only view the world with our eyes. It is not enough to look at the world, we must use all our senses to experience life.

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