You may or may not recognize the name Ivy Green, but you likely know something about Helen Keller. While in Muscle Shoals, or more technically, Tuscumbia, AL, I visited the birthplace of Helen Keller – Ivy Green.
Like probably most people, I knew walking in a little bit about Helen’s life, but I was ignorant. What an amazing woman, and an amazing story!
Amongst many other accomplishments, one of the most stirring accomplishments to me was her inspired speech to the Lions Club International convention in 1925, challenging them to become knights for sight conservation. The challenge she issued to the Lions is as follows:
“Will you not help me hasten the day when there shall be no preventable blindness; no little deaf, blind child left untaught; no blind man or woman left unaided? I appeal to you Lions, you who have sight, your hearing, you who are strong and brave and kind. Will you not constitute yourselves Knights of the Blind in this crusade against darkness?”
That is so powerful, and in fact gives me goose bumps as I relive the reenactment of that speech from 1925. Today, one of the Lions Clubs’ leading causes is to prevent blindness and provide eye care and health worldwide. Here too I learned something about the Lions Clubs, which I had been largely ignorant.
But imagine being blind and deaf (from almost the age of two) and writing 12 books, learning braille, learning to speak five languages, traveling the world in support of sight, and being a political activist? These would be daunting accomplishments with no disabilities!
One of the defining connections in her development turned out to be with Alexander Graham Bell. Her family contacted Bell in an attempt to find ways to help Helen. It was through Bell that Helen Keller became involved with the Perkins Institute in Watertown, MA, and subsequently met her teacher and life long friend Anne Sullivan.
A pivotal moment in her life was when her teacher, Anne Sullivan, had Helen at the water pump at her home, spelled water to Helen on her hand, and then poured water over her hand. It was at this magical moment that Helen understood – and went on that day to learn 30 more words.
Helen Keller’s relationship with Alexander Graham Bell was such that her first book, The Story of My Life, was dedicated to Bell. “To Alexander Graham Bell, who has taught the deaf to speak and enabled the listening ear to hear speech from the Atlantic to the Rockies.”
She was also the first deaf/blind person to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree, from Radcliffe College in Cambridge, MA. And she graduated cum laude (with distinction)!
What a remarkable woman – I hope you find Helen Keller’s story worth exploring further!
“I will not just live my life. I will not just spend my life. I will invest my life.”