Her loosened tongue employ’d

We’re more familiar with the story of Helen Keller’s first breakthrough into the world of language, by a well-pump on a Tuscumbia, Alabama summer morning in 1887: “As the cool stream gushed over one hand, she spelled into the other the word water… Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten—a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that “w-a-t-e-r” meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. The living word awakened my soul, giving it light, hope, joy, set it free! There were barriers still, it is true, but barriers that could in time be swept away.” This newsreel recreates the sweeping-away of one of those latter barriers, as Helen’s teacher and lifelong companion Anne Sullivan explains the technique she and Helen developed to let her “hear” with her hands, and to learn to speak.

Vitaphone newsreel, 1930; quotation from The Story of My Life, by Helen Keller, 1902 :: vis Boing Boing

Originally published at culture-making.com.

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