NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — In 1980, former president Jimmy Carter designated June 27 as National Helen Keller Day — exactly 100 years after her birth.
“Helen Keller refused to let her handicaps cut her off from a life of usefulness and service to others,” the proclamation reads. “Through her own determination and faith, she was able to develop and use her talents and demonstrate how much even the most severely handicapped individual can accomplish when proper training and rehabilitation opportunities are provided.”
Here are five things you may not have known about Keller and her lasting legacy:
Helen Keller wasn’t born blind or deaf. Keller was born with all of her senses in Tuscumbia, Alabama on June 27, 1880. However, she fell ill when she was only two years old, causing her to lose her sense of sight and sense of hearing. The nature of her exact illness remains unclear.
Her Devoted Teacher. Keller met Anne Sullivan in 1887, when she was only a child. Through diligence and patience, Sullivan developed a method to communicate with Keller, and slowly taught her how to communicate effectively with the rest of the world. Sullivan and Keller remained close throughout their entire lives, establishing a teacher-student relationship spanning close to half a century.
Keller was educated in New York City. Though Keller’s primary education fell into the hands of her brilliant and well-celebrated teacher, Keller also received secondary educational opportunities at several institutions throughout her life. After studying at the Horace Mann School for the Deaf in Boston, Keller studied at the Wright-Humanson School for the Deaf in Manhattan. Her studies there lasted from 1894 to 1896, before she moved on to the Cambridge School for Young Ladies and eventually Radcliffe College.
A Motivated Altruist. In her early adulthood, Keller was passionate about social issues, such as rights for the handicapped and women’s rights. Keller was an active member of the National Federation for the Blind, and helped start Helen Keller International (headquartered in New York City) as well as the ACLU.
Honors and Recognition. Through her life, Keller was recognized as a scholar and humanitarian. In 1936, she received the Theodore Roosevelt Distinguished Service Medal and was honored with the the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964. Keller was elected to the Women’s Hall of Fame in 1965.
Keller died in 1968 at her home in Connecticut. She was 87.