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COLLECTION Identifier: 176

Papers of Helen Keller, 1900-1969


Correspondence, photographs, etc., of Helen Keller, a humanitarian, activist, and author who was deafblind


  • Creation: 1900-1969


Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Helen Keller as well as copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


.42 linear feet (1 file box)

The Helen Keller Collection covers the period from 1900 to 1968. The papers in the collection contain biographical data in the form of correspondence, photographs, and newspaper clippings. Among the correspondence are letters by Ella J. Spooner, her proctor at Radcliffe, and others about Keller's Radcliffe experience. Also included are fund-raising letters written by Keller at various points of her life-long work with the American Foundation for the Blind. A tour itinerary from a 1947 trip to Asia and and gives an indication of Keller's varied activities in finding help for people who were blind all over the world, and a 1910 poem by Keller reveals her spirit and eloquence in the face of great obstacles. The collection also includes portraits of Keller (ca.1902-1950), as well as a photograph of Keller at her 50th Radcliffe College Reunion (1954). Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online.


At the age of nineteen months, due to an attack of scarlet fever, Helen Keller lost her senses of sight and hearing. Keller's parents requested that a teacher from the Perkins Institution in Boston, Massachusetts, be sent to instruct the child soon thereafter. Anne M. Sullivan was sent to Helen's home in Tuscumbia, Alabama, to train her according to the methods of Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe. From 1888 onwards, at the Perkins Institution, and under Sarah Fuller at the Horace Mann School in New York, she learned to read, write, and talk, and became proficient to some degree in the ordinary education curriculum, several languages, and mathematics.

In 1900, Keller entered Radcliffe College and graduated cum laude in 1904. After her college education, Keller began working extensively in causes for people who are blind in the United States and internationally. She made many tours and held fund-raising benefits for the American Foundation for the Blind. During and after World War II she focused her efforts on aiding veterans, orphans, and refugees. Various honors, awards, and honorary degrees and citations were conferred upon Keller by foreign governments and civic, educational, and welfare organizations throughout the United States. Keller's writings include: Optimism (1903), "The Song of the Stone Wall" (1910), Helen Keller's Journal (1938), Teacher (1955), and others.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession Numbers: 1304, 1305, 1406, 1455, 1457, 1472, 1491, 1493, 1604

The papers of Helen Keller were deposited with the Schlesinger Library in March of 1968 by Mrs. John C. Shere and Elsie M. Paine, in August of 1968 by Ella J. Spooner, in September of 1968 by Mrs. Charles Parker, in November of 1968 by Mary Lee and Ellen Kerney, and in May of 1969 by William Burrage.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Papers of Helen Keller, 1898-2003 (SC 11); Papers of Helen Keller, 1903 (RA.A/K24); Papers of Helen Keller, 1930-1957 (A/K29h); Letter from Helen Keller to Mrs. H.L. Beach, 1936 December 31 (A/K29h1); Papers of Helen Keller, 1933-1971 (A/K29h2); Papers of Helen Keller, 1932-1939 (A/K29h3); Papers about the dedication of the Helen Keller Garden, 1954 (A/K29h4); Letter of Helen Keller, 1900 November 5 (A/K29h5).

Processing Information

Processed: October 2, 1972

Updated with additional description: June 2020

By: Paula Aloisio

Keller, Helen, 1880-1968. Papers of Helen Keller, 1900-1969: A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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