The best and most beautiful things in the world
cannot be seen or even touched –
they must be felt with the heart.
— Helen Keller
Helen Keller, An Inspiring Leader
Helen Keller (1880-1968) had a brief illness in childhood that left her blind and deaf, but once she unlocked the key to communication, she became one of the most high achieving women in the US. The book she is most known for is her own autobiography, The Story of My Life.
Read about how to visit her home in northern Alabama, where you can touch the original water well pump that changed her life forever, here: https://helenkellerbirthplace.org. This is where she first connected sign language to an everyday object, a moment considered to be the pivotal experience that launched her passion for education.
Keller worked diligently to learn numerous subjects and eventually graduated from Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, later receiving additional honorary degrees. She traveled the world, became an advocate and spokesperson for people with lifelong physical challenges, and, at one point in the early years of the silent film industry, became a movie actress. One of her lasting legacies is the American Civil Liberties Union, which she founded.
She received many honors through her lifetime, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Her autobiography, published in 1905, is available as a free e-book here: https://www.gutenberg.org.
An example of her handwriting can be seen as her signature in the letter image on this page, which she wrote on behalf of the Institute of the Chinese Blind in New York in 1941 in order to raise funds for their organization in New York.
The Miracle Worker, a play about her early childhood and youth as cultivated by a teacher named Anne Sullivan, is a popular choice for community theaters and schools.
William Bradford Huie, Journalist and Novelist
If you are traveling north to Helen Keller’s birthplace from central Alabama, you might also enjoy a stop nearby at Hartselle, hometown of William Bradford Huie, an investigative journalist and prolific novelist whose civil rights stories were most popular in the mid-20th century.
Hartselle is approximately an hour’s drive to Tuscumbia, and has a public library named after William Bradford Huie at 152 Sparkman Street NW.
Read more about him through the Encyclopedia of Alabama here: https://encyclopediaofalabama.org/article/william-bradford-huie.
About Tuscumbia and Hartselle
While Tuscumbia seems like a small town, it actually has more than three times the number of residents there now than when Keller was young. Hartselle has also grown in recent years and has approximately a third more residents than Tuscumbia.
Helen Keller’s birthplace and childhood home is the fifth stop on our Alabama Author Adventures Trail.