Birth Name: Helen Adams Keller
Born: June 27, 1880
Birthplace: Tuscumbia, Alabama
Died: June 1, 1968
Helen Keller overcame her disabilities of blindness
and deafness to become a woman respected around
the world for her work as a humanitarian, author, and
advocate for women and those with disabilities. She
was an avowed socialist, suffragist and pacifist.
She became world famous as a speaker and author.
She followed the spiritual philosophy of the
Swedborgians. She was a radical woman for her time,
a fact which has been lost somewhat in the glow of
fame and time.
Helen had three significant companions during her lifetime. Anne
Sullivan is the best known, as she came to tutor the young Helen
at the age of seven and remained her companion until her death
in 1936. After that Helen was accompanied by a young woman
from Scotland, Polly Thompson, who had been her secretary and
became her companion. She died in 1960, and after that Helen
Keller’s companion was a nurse named Winnie Corbally; she stayed
with Helen until her death in 1968.
Helen Keller graduated with honors from Radcliffe University in 1904, the first deafblind person to attain a bachelor’s degree. She later published 12 books and numerous articles. She worked for the American Foundation for the Blind for the last 44 years of her life. There are numerous portrayals of her life in art; the most famous is the movie, “The Miracle Worker.” She once said, “All the world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming.”
Sculpture Notes: The content of this image is meant to capture the moment of epiphany for Helen Keller, when she first connected the meaning of “water” from her family pump trickling over her hand to the letters “water” being spelled into her other hand by her tutor, Anne Sullivan. This is the first sculpture of a child, and the first sculptor of a person with a disability, in the U.S. capital building. Commissioned by Alabama Governor Bob Riley and his wife Patsy, it was thought that the image of a child would be an inspiration to children who visit the capital building. Also, it was designed to be appreciated by those who are informed by tactile sensations; the bronze markers are lettered in both alphabet text and Braille. The sculptor made a second casting of the statue and sent it to the Alabama governor for the benefit of those who are unable to travel to Washington D.C. It may be seen in the Alabama State Capital building.
Sculptor: Edward Hlavka, a Utah artist
Installation Date: October 7, 2009
Media: Base is white marble from Alabama; Statue is bronze
Location: Capital Rotunda, Washington, D.C.
Date of Photo: October 3, 2011