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Helen Keller And Anne Sullivan (1928 Newsreel Footage) & Helen Keller Meeting First Lady Grace Coolidge (1926 Newsreel Footage)

5 minutes

When I saw Helen Keller first, she was six years and eight months old. She had been blind and deaf and mute since her 19th month as the result of an illness. She had no way of communicating with those around her except a few imitative signs that she had made for herself. A push meant go, and a pull meant come and so on. She had observed that we did not use the hand when we were talking to each other. And I let her see, by putting her hand on my face, how we talk with our mouths. She felt the vibration of the spoken word. Instantly, she spelled, I want to talk with my mouth. That seemed impossible. But after experimenting for a time, we found that placing her hand in this position-- the thumb resting on the throat right at the larynx, the first finger on the lips, the second on the nose-- we found that she could feel the vibration of spoken words. For instance, the throat, she feels the G, the hard G.

[G SOUND]

[G SOUND]

And on the lips, she feels is the-- and the K sound.

[K SOUND]

[K SOUND]

On the lips, she feels the B. [B SOUND]

[B SOUND]

And the-- and with the second finger on the nose, the nasal sounds-- the [N SOUNDS]..

[N SOUNDS]

This first word she learned to articulate was the little word it.

With the hand in this position, I made the vowel [I SOUND]..

HELEN KELLER: [I SOUND]

She felt it.

[I SOUND]

HELEN KELLER: [I SOUND]

Then I made the T. [T SOUND]

HELEN KELLER: [T SOUND]

She feels it with the finger on her lips-- on my lips. Then I put the two letters together to form the word it.

And the first word was learned. After her seventh lesson, she was able to speak the sentence, word by word, I--

I--

TRANSLATOR: -- am--

-- am--

TRANSLATOR: -- not--

-- not--

TRANSLATOR: -- dumb--

-- dumb--

TRANSLATOR: -- now.

-- now.

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Contains two clips of Helen Keller: (1) Keller and Anne Sullivan appear in newsreel footage from 1928, and (2) rare newsreel footage of Keller and Sullivan meeting First Lady Grace Coolidge. In the former, Sullivan explains and then demonstrates the methodology used to teach Keller language, most elements of which are still used worldwide with students who are deaf-blind. For the latter, silent newsreel footage shows Keller meeting First Lady Coolidge, with Keller placing her hands on the First Lady's mouth in order to communicate with her.

Media Details

Runtime: 5 minutes

1 hour 11 minutes
Grade Level: PT/TT -
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Viewer Comments

  • Tiny annierose
    Ana D. (Seattle, WA)
    February 18th, 2015 at 03:39 PM

    Historically relevant and very interesting subject matter.