Helen Keller Letter re Miss Cady

Helen Keller Letter re Miss Cady.

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Helen Keller Letter re Miss Cady


PRESENTING a VERY IMPORTANT AND HUGELY HISTORICALLY SIGNIFICANT PIECE……a typed letter from Helen Keller to Mr. William Wade of the Pennsylvania Institute for the Blind.

The Letter is not fully dated….it does state that it was written on ‘December Eighteenth” at Wrentham.

We believe that based upon the content of the letter that it was some time between 1897 to 1902, when Helen Keller would have been about 17-22 years old. Clearly, it is a Christmas letter to her dear friend and mentor, Mr. Wade.

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Helen Adams Keller (June 27, 1880 – June 1, 1968) was an American author, political activist, and lecturer. She was the first deaf-blind person to earn a bachelor of arts degree.[2][3] The story of how Keller’s teacher, Anne Sullivan, broke through the isolation imposed by a near complete lack of language, allowing the girl to blossom as she learned to communicate, has become widely known through the dramatic depictions of the play and film The Miracle Worker. Her birthplace in West Tuscumbia, Alabama, is now a museum[4] and sponsors an annual “Helen Keller Day”. Her birthday on June 27 is commemorated as Helen Keller Day in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania and was authorized at the federal level by presidential proclamation by President Jimmy Carter in 1980, the 100th anniversary of her birth.

A prolific author, Keller was well-traveled and outspoken in her convictions. A member of the Socialist Party of America and the Industrial Workers of the World, she campaigned for women’s suffrage, labor rights, socialism, antimilitarism, and other similar causes. She was inducted into the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame in 1971[5] and was one of twelve inaugural inductees to the Alabama Writers Hall of Fame on June 8, 2015.[6] Helen proved to the world that deaf people could all learn to communicate and that they could survive in the hearing world. She also taught that deaf people are capable of doing things that hearing people can do. She is one of the most famous deaf people in history and she is an idol to many deaf people in the world.

Helen Adams Keller was born on June 27, 1880, in Tuscumbia, Alabama. Her family lived on a homestead, Ivy Green,[4] that Helen’s grandfather had built decades earlier.[8] She had two younger siblings, Mildred Campbell and Phillip Brooks Keller, and two older half-brothers from her father’s prior marriage, James and William Simpson Keller.[9]

Her father, Arthur H. Keller,[10] spent many years as an editor for the Tuscumbia North Alabamian, and had served as a captain for the Confederate Army.[8] Her paternal grandmother was the second cousin of Robert E. Lee.[11] Her mother, Kate Adams,[12] was the daughter of Charles W. Adams, a Confederate general.[13] Though originally from Massachusetts, Charles Adams also fought for the Confederate Army during the American Civil War, earning the rank of colonel (and acting brigadier-general). Her paternal lineage was traced to Casper Keller, a native of Switzerland.[11][14] One of Helen’s Swiss ancestors was the first teacher for the deaf in Zurich. Keller reflected on this coincidence in her first autobiography, stating “that there is no king who has not had a slave among his ancestors, and no slave who has not had a king among his.”[11]

Helen Keller was born with the ability to see and hear. At 19 months old, she contracted an illness described by doctors as “an acute congestion of the stomach and the brain”, which might have been scarlet fever or meningitis.[15] The illness left her both deaf and blind. At that time, she was able to communicate somewhat with Martha Washington, the six-year-old daughter of the family cook, who understood her signs;[16] by the age of seven, Keller had more than 60 home signs to communicate with her family. Even though blind and deaf, Helen Keller had passed through many obstacles and she learned to live with her disabilities. She learned how to tell which person was walking by from the vibrations their footsteps would make. The sex and age of the person could be identified by how strong and continuous the steps were.[17]

In 1886, Keller’s mother, inspired by an account in Charles DickensAmerican Notes of the successful education of another deaf and blind woman, Laura Bridgman, dispatched the young Keller, accompanied by her father, to seek out physician J. Julian Chisolm, an eye, ear, nose, and throat specialist in Baltimore, for advice.[18] Chisholm referred the Kellers to Alexander Graham Bell, who was working with deaf children at the time. Bell advised them to contact the Perkins Institute for the Blind, the school where Bridgman had been educated, which was then located in South Boston. Michael Anagnos, the school’s director, asked 20-year-old former student Anne Sullivan, herself visually impaired, to become Keller’s instructor. It was the beginning of a 49-year-long relationship during which Sullivan evolved into Keller’s governess and eventually her companion.

Anne Sullivan arrived at Keller’s house in March 1887, and immediately began to teach Helen to communicate by spelling words into her hand, beginning with “d-o-l-l” for the doll that she had brought Keller as a present. Keller was frustrated, at first, because she did not understand that every object had a word uniquely identifying it. In fact, when Sullivan was trying to teach Keller the word for “mug”, Keller became so frustrated she broke the mug.[19] Keller’s big breakthrough in communication came the next month, when she realized that the motions her teacher was making on the palm of her hand, while running cool water over her other hand, symbolized the idea of “water”; she then nearly exhausted Sullivan demanding the names of all the other familiar objects in her world. Helen Keller was viewed as isolated but she was in fact, very in touch with the outside world. She was able to enjoy music by feeling the beat and she was able to have a strong connection with animals through touch. She was delayed at picking up language, but that did not stop her from having a voice.

Starting in May 1888, Keller attended the Perkins Institute for the Blind. In 1894, Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan moved to New York to attend the Wright-Humason School for the Deaf, and to learn from Sarah Fuller at the Horace Mann School for the Deaf. In 1896, they returned to Massachusetts, and Keller entered The Cambridge School for Young Ladies before gaining admittance, in 1900, to Radcliffe College, where she lived in Briggs Hall, South House. Her admirer, Mark Twain, had introduced her to Standard Oil magnate Henry Huttleston Rogers, who, with his wife Abbie, paid for her education. In 1904, at the age of 24, Keller graduated from Radcliffe, becoming the first deaf blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. She maintained a correspondence with the Austrian philosopher and pedagogue Wilhelm Jerusalem, who was one of the first to discover her literary talent.[21]

Determined to communicate with others as conventionally as possible, Keller learned to speak, and spent much of her life giving speeches and lectures. She learned to “hear” people’s speech by reading their lips with her hands—her sense of touch had become extremely subtle. She became proficient at using braille[22] and reading sign language with her hands as well. Shortly before World War I, with the assistance of the Zoellner Quartet she determined that by placing her fingertips on a resonant tabletop she could experience music played close by.

Keller went on to become a world-famous speaker and author. She is remembered as an advocate for people with disabilities, amid numerous other causes. The Deaf community was widely impacted by her. She traveled to twenty-five different countries giving motivational speeches about Deaf people’s conditions.[31] She was a suffragette, a pacifist, an opponent of Woodrow Wilson, a radical socialist and a birth control supporter. In 1915 she and George Kessler founded the Helen Keller International (HKI) organization. This organization is devoted to research in vision, health and nutrition. In 1920, she helped to found the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Keller traveled to over 40 countries with Sullivan, making several trips to Japan and becoming a favorite of the Japanese people. Keller met every U.S. President from Grover Cleveland to Lyndon B. Johnson and was friends with many famous figures, including Alexander Graham Bell, Charlie Chaplin and Mark Twain. Keller and Twain were both considered radicals at the beginning of the 20th century, and as a consequence, their political views have been forgotten or glossed over in the popular mind.

She moved to Wrentham in 1897 and resided in the town for over a decade. It was during this time she joined the Socialist Party of Massachusetts, became a suffragist, and published several books.

Link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helen_Keller


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In her biography, Helen Keller:The Story of my Life: Part 4 she recorded the following: “I also gave considerable time to the improvement of my speech. I read aloud to Miss Sullivan and recited passages from my favorite poets, which I had committed to memory; and she corrected my pronunciation and helped me to phrase and inflect. It was not, however, until October, 1893, after I had recovered from the fatigue and excitement of my visit to the World’s Fair, that I began to have regular lessons.

Miss Sullivan and I were at that time in Hulton, Pennsylvania, visiting the family of Mr. William Wade. It was arranged that I should study under Mr. Irons, a neighbor of theirs. I remember him as a man of rare, sweet nature and of wide experience. He taught me Latin Grammar principally; but he often helped me in Arithmetic, which I found as troublesome as it was uninteresting. I regarded this study as a system of pitfalls. I hung about the dangerous frontier of “guess,” avoiding with infinite trouble to myself and others the broad valley of reason. When I was not guessing I was jumping at conclusions, and this fault, in addition to my dullness, aggravated my difficulties.”

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It appears that Helen Keller and Mr William Wade did not always have a ‘perfect’ relationship.

In 1899 she wrote a SCATHING letter to Mr. Wade accusing him of attacking her friends and sternly chastising him for his behaviour. She clearly felt deeply betrayed by Mr Wade as is referenced in her letter that he “was like a father to me”.

This letter of December 5 1899 is in the LIBRARY OF CONGRESS.

Read the Letter at this Link: https://www.loc.gov/resource/magbell.21500148/?st=gallery

CLEARLY, as is evidenced from OUR letter they repaired their relationship after this ‘falling out’ in 1899.

BUT until NOW nobody knew for certain when they repaired it. It MUST have been in 1901 – 1902.

We also possess another letter from Helen Keller to William Wade from circa 1907, which appears elsewhere in this Collection.

William Wade died on April 22nd 1913.

As part of his Obituary, Helen Keller wrote the following:

“I had not seen Mr. Wade for a long time before that visit. Circumstances and a grave misunderstanding brought about by meddlesome persons whom he trusted had separated us for about four years. But at last he understood what had happened, and he came back to me, and that was a happy day for us both………He was truly one of the best friends I ever had and one of the best men that ever lived.”

Link: https://books.google.com/books?id=FQUCAAAAYAAJ&pg=RA2-PA47&lpg=RA2-PA47&dq=william+wade+of+pennsylvania+institute+for+the+blind&source=bl&ots=KNPDWACkIW&sig=MYb2DgpST4gy6C-LxF25uQ4-JNU&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwinw_CRjq_UAhVX6mMKHa0nDEQQ6AEIJjAC#v=onepage&q=william%20wade%20of%20pennsylvania%20institute%20for%20the%20blind&f=false

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WHAT IS AMAZING ABOUT THIS LETTER is the CONTENT of the Final paragraph:

The Letter reads as follows:

“I only laugh at poor Miss Cady’s vagaries. I do not think that she ought be held responsible for anything she says. It really seems a kindness to let her write out her anger against everybody and not answer her, every reply sends her distracted”. 

The ‘Miss Cady‘ she is referring to is NONE OTHER than the extremely famous figure of, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the leader of the Womens’ Suffrage Movement in the US.

What makes Helen Keller’s comments in this letter so SIGNIFICANT is that it reveals a few things about her opinions on Miss Cady’s temperament at that time:-

(1) That Helen found her ‘vagaries’ amusing

(2) Her sympathy for Miss Cady’s short temper in her latter years and, indeed,

(3) it hints at Miss Cady not being fully responsible for her actions.

Dare we suggest the possibility of dementia. (Not alleged, but clearly insinuated).

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (Miss Cady) died in 1902 aged 86.


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The Letter also references Helen and her mother (Kate Keller) visiting Helen’s sister, Mildred Keller Tyson and her husband in Montgomery, Alabama and staying for a couple of months. It would also appear to be Helen’s first such visit to Montgomery as she is clearly excited about the prospect and the promise that ” there is always something going on down there”.

Mildred Keller was born in 1886 (she was Helen’s younger sister).This helps us date this letter. Miss Cady was obviously still alive so it had to be pre-1902. But 1901 would have put Mildred at 15 or 16 years of age and married. We can find no record of the date of marriage of Mildred and her husband Mr. Tyson,but it is very conceivable that she was married at that age, at that time. Therefore, we are of the opinion that this letter was written by Helen Keller in December 1901….just 10 months before the death of Elizabeth Cady Stanton in October 1902…..which makes it EVEN MORE IMPORTANT.

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Elizabeth Cady Stanton (November 12, 1815 – October 26, 1902) was an American suffragist, social activist, abolitionist, and leading figure of the early women’s rights movement. Her Declaration of Sentiments, presented at the Seneca Falls Convention held in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York, is often credited with initiating the first organized women’s rights and women’s suffrage movements in the United States.[1][2] Stanton was president of the National Woman Suffrage Association from 1892 until 1900.

Before Stanton narrowed her political focus almost exclusively to women’s rights, she was an active abolitionist with her husband Henry Brewster Stanton (co-founder of the Republican Party) and cousin Gerrit Smith. Unlike many of those involved in the women’s rights movement, Stanton addressed various issues pertaining to women beyond voting rights. Her concerns included women’s parental and custody rights, property rights, employment and income rights, divorce, the economic health of the family, and birth control.[3] She was also an outspoken supporter of the 19th-century temperance movement.

After the American Civil War, Stanton’s commitment to female suffrage caused a schism in the women’s rights movement when she, together with Susan B. Anthony, declined to support passage of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. She opposed giving added legal protection and voting rights to African American men while women, black and white, were denied those same rights. Her position on this issue, together with her thoughts on organized Christianity and women’s issues beyond voting rights, led to the formation of two separate women’s rights organizations that were finally rejoined, with Stanton as president of the joint organization, about twenty years after her break from the original women’s suffrage movement.

Stanton died in 1902, having written both The Woman’s Bible and her autobiography Eighty Years and More, and many other articles and pamphlets about female suffrage and women’s rights.

Stanton died of heart failure at her home in New York City on October 26, 1902, 18 years before women were granted the right to vote in the United States. Survived by six of her seven children and by seven grandchildren, she was interred in Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York City, the grave upon which there is a monument for her and her husband.[96] Although Elizabeth Cady Stanton had been unable to attend a formal college or university, her daughters did. Margaret Livingston Stanton Lawrence attended Vassar College (1876) and Columbia University (1891), and Harriot Stanton Blatch received both her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Vassar College in 1878 and 1891 respectively.

Link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Cady_Stanton


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Helen Keller Letter re Miss Cady.

Provenance: From the Lida Calvert Hall/Obenchain/Godwin/McMillan Collection.

The Letter was given to Lida Calvert Hall by Mr. Wade himself.

Lida, herself, was also a famous author and suffragist.

Please read the Blog about the Lida Calvert Hall/Obenchain/Godwin/McMillan Collection in our Blog Section.

The Letter is 100% Authentic, Original and New to the Market.

It was discovered by the author of this post, amongst Lida’s personal effects, It was discovered along with another Letter from Helen Keller to William Wade from 1907, which letter has a handwritten note from William Wade to Lida Calvert Hall Obenchain saying “You can keep this if you want”.

Also discovered in the same ‘cache’ were a number of Letters from President Theodore Roosevelt to Lida, a letter from Ethel Snowden, and various other historically important persons.

These letters will be added to the Collection for sale shortly.

Condition: Near Mint. Being sold In a display case under glass.


Price: $12,500.00

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