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Helen Keller: Home

Resources About Alabama Icon Helen Keller

Alabama's Most Famous Icon

Helen Adams Keller (1880-1968) is forever fixed in the public consciousness as a six-year-old girl in Tuscumbia, standing at the water pump where her beloved Teacher, Anne Sullivan, had the breakthrough that taught her to communicate and released her mind from silence and darkness. It is a scene that has literally been reenacted tens of thousands of times, and continues to be every year, on stages all over the world and in numerous films from the silent era to the modern and in several languages. The Alabama legislature commissioned a life-sized bronze sculpture of the water pump epiphany to represent the state in the United States capitol where it is the most prominently displayed statue in the building, even though Helen Keller left the state soon as a child and was more often than not at odds with the politicians of her home state for the rest of her life.

As dramatic as the epiphany at the water pump was, it was only the beginning of Helen Keller’s journey. She lived for another 80 years, becoming one of the most famous and the most universally revered humans (certainly the most famous and universally revered Alabamian) of the 20th century. World famous by the time she was an adult, for most of her very long life she was also possibly the most universally admired woman in the world (certainly the most admired from Alabama), revered as an icon by the most powerful and the most powerless alike on all inhabited continents.  Her life was simultaneously extraordinary (she traveled the world constantly, met and in many cases befriended the most famous people of her day, almost worshiped as the embodiment of human triumph over adversity) and completely ordinary (she fought a constant struggle to make ends meet, longed for romantic love, and was seldom happier than when she was at her modest home with her dogs). She was both saintly and vain, selfless and petty, capable of transcending her disabilities and her times and capable of being defined by them.  She was also one of the most outspoken women of her time, a founding member of the ACLU who openly expressed admiration for socialist leaders, eugenics, and other views that shocked many of her admirers and that were ignored by many others who wanted to mold her in their image. Consequently, she remains a fascinating and complex subject for researchers and writers.


The Alabama Public Library Service endeavors to keep as broad and current a collection of print and other resources related to noteworthy Alabamians as our resources allow. Of particular importance to the legacy of Miss Keller, APLS is also home to the state's Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, and our available resources include many titles available in audio and Braille. This guide highlights selections from our print, Brailled, and audio books by and about Helen Keller, all of which are available for circulation.