Keller was born in Alabama in 1880. When she was 2, she developed a terrible illness. Doctors didn’t think she’d survive. Keller recovered, but she lost her sight and hearing.
The next few years were a struggle—for Keller and her family. Desperate for help, her parents contacted the Perkins School for the Blind in Massachusetts. The school sent a teacher named Anne Sullivan.
At first, Keller lashed out at Sullivan too, even knocking out one of her teeth. Yet Sullivan refused to give up. She tried teaching Keller words by spelling them on her hand. But Keller didn’t understand what the letters meant.
One day, Sullivan had an idea. She put Keller’s hand into a stream of water from a pump. In Keller’s other hand, Sullivan traced the letters W-A-T-E-R over and over. Miraculously, Keller made the connection. The cool liquid streaming through her fingers was called water! It was a major breakthrough.
“That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free,” Keller later wrote.