Even if you’ve watched The Miracle Worker a handful of times, you probably still have a sizable gap in knowledge about Helen Keller’s life. As history’s most famous deaf-blind person, she was an inspiring author and activist, but she was also a vaudeville performer, a close friend of Mark Twain, and a world traveler investigated by the FBI for her political views. Here are 15 things you probably did not know about Helen Keller.
1. Accomplished Author
Helen was a prolific author who wrote a dozen books and several articles in her lifetime. Her first book was her autobiography, The Story of My Life, first published in 1903.
2. History-Changing Graduate
In 1904, at the age of 24, Keller graduated cum laude from Radcliffe College, becoming the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree.
3. She Was Good Friends With Mark Twain…
In 1895, as a teenager, Keller met Mark Twain at a lunch in New York. Later, she wrote that he “treated me not as a freak, but as a handicapped woman seeking a way to circumvent extraordinary difficulties.” Twain had a daughter the same age as Keller, and eventually, the two bonded over their political views and mutual admiration for each other. She recognized the author by his scent, as he often reeked of tobacco. Twain convinced the industrialist Henry Huttleston Rogers to help pay for Keller’s education, and Twain was also the first person to call Anne Sullivan, Keller’s teacher, and companion, a miracle worker. Twain even gave Keller a blurb for her 1903 autobiography, which she wrote at age 22.
4. …As Well as Alexander Graham Bell.
When Keller was 6 years old, her parents took her to Julian John Chisolm, Professor of Diseases of the Eye and Ear at the University of Maryland, a renowned physician who recommended that she see Alexander Graham Bell. Because Bell’s wife was deaf, the inventor founded schools for the deaf (as well as their teachers) and was involved with teaching deaf children. Due to Bell’s suggestion, Keller’s parents enrolled her at the Perkins Institution for the Blind, through which she met Sullivan. Bell mentored Sullivan and was friends with both her and Keller until his death in 1922.