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Helen Keller: Topics in Chronicling America

Helen Keller was an activist, author, suffragist, and the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. This guide provides access to materials related to “Helen Keller” in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.


Sketch of Helen Keller. October 25, 1896. Kansas City Daily Journal (Kansas City, MO), Image 20. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

While Mark Twain once asserted that the two most interesting characters of the nineteenth century were Helen Keller and Napoleon, Keller continued to grab the attention of Americans well into the twentieth century. Initially gaining prominence for overcoming the limitations of her deaf-blindness under the guidance of Annie Sullivan, Keller traveled the country advocating for socialist, suffragist, and disability rights. In 1920, Keller and others founded the American Civil Liberties Union, which continues to be a powerful activist force today. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.


1888 Newspapers report on young Helen Keller’s success under her teacher and companion Annie Sullivan.
1890 Helen Keller begins talking for the first time.
1896-1900 Keller starts working for admission to Radcliffe College, Harvard’s female college and matriculates in 1900. Her classmates elect her Vice President.
1903 Keller releases her autobiography The Story of My Life.
1904 Keller graduates from Radcliffe.
1912 Keller, now involved in Socialist politics, joins a public welfare board in Schenectady, New York. Keller also begins to give lectures on socialism around the country and continues for the next few years.
January 1920 Keller and others found the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).