Helen Keller archive sheds light on work and life of blind activist

File photo showing Helen Keller receiving a bouquet from a child.
File photo showing Helen Keller receiving a bouquet from a child. PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE AMERICAN FOUNDATION FOR THE BLIND

NEW YORK (WP) - "Is it not a disgrace to this great, prosperous, resourceful country that there should be thousands of children growing up under conditions which hinder their normal development, dampen the ardour of youth and quench the fire of aspiration in their young hearts?

Helen Keller raised the issue in a 1923 fundraising letter on behalf of the National Playground and Recreation Association of America.

This letter, which she wrote on a Braille typewriter, is part of the Helen Keller Archive that was launched last month by the American Foundation for the Blind.

The New York City archive is one of the largest collections of content about the life and work of Keller, who became one of the most famous advocates for children and people with disabilities.

She worked for the American Foundation for the Blind for 44 years.

She was born a healthy child in 1880. She was only 19 months when she lost her sight and hearing after enduring an "unknown illness", the foundation said.

On March 3, 1887, she met Anne Mansfield Sullivan, a teacher who would change her life when she taught her how to read and write.

A year before she graduated from Radcliffe College in 1904, Keller published her autobiography, The Story Of My Life.

Mark Twain once said: "The two most interesting characters of the 19th century are Napoleon and Helen Keller."

When she died on June 1, 1968, at the age of 87, she bequeathed all her belongings to the American Foundation for the Blind.

The archive includes copies of more than 475 speeches and essays that Keller wrote.

"Despite her fame, relatively few people know that Helen Keller wrote 14 books as well as hundreds of essays and articles on a broad array of subjects ranging from animals and atomic energy to Mahatma Gandhi," the foundation said.

Keller visited more than 39 countries, where she often did advocacy work.

She appeared in front of state legislators and on Capitol Hill and demanded rehabilitation services and schools for blind kids.

The collection aims to answer as many questions as possible about Keller and her life.

She liked hot dogs. She was a great drinker.

She was full of life. She was not some staid woman.