April 5th 1887: Helen Keller’s ‘miracle’ breakthrough
On this day in 1887 the deaf-blind Helen Keller aged 7 recognised the word ‘water’. Keller was left deaf and blind from an illness when she was 19 months old. Her parents sought someone to educate her, going to notable figures like Alexander Graham Bell, and eventually settling with the young Anne Sullivan (‘The Miracle Worker’) in 1887. Sullivan taught Helen to communicate by spelling words into her hand. Her breakthrough on April 5th was when she realised that Sullivan spelling ‘w-a-t-e-r’ into her hand and the sensation of running water on her other hand symbolised ‘water’. From then on Helen was a fast learner, leaning 30 new words that day and going on to learn to write and speak so, by aged 16, she could attend school. Keller became the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree and went on to campaign for leftist causes, female suffrage and pacifism.