Helen Keller: Thoughts from the Other Side of Silence

Helen Keller

Elder Christofferson’s recent General Conference talk “Abide in My Love” reminded me of Helen Keller’s life and works. “The story of Helen Keller,” he wrote, “is something of a parable suggesting how divine love can transform a willing soul.”

I remember I first came across her story in a Scholastic children’s biography which focused (as the movie does) on how she came to realize that everything has a name. I then went on to read her lovely The Story of My Life. I learned she had written a sequel and more books besides–but at the time they were rare and inaccessible.

Now Helen Keller’s books are in the public domain and libraries have put digital copies online.  It’s a great opportunity to learn more from this articulate and wise woman.

Here is a list of links to some of her written works with descriptions from the books themselves where possible.

Helen Keller’s Books

  • 1904 My Key of Life: Optimism “Another shower of thoughts that refreshed my life-garden fell when I read in Kant that time and space are not fixed, immutable elements, but changeable ways of experiencing life. Like most people I had felt the spell of the senses to such a degree that the walls of time and space seemed very solid and inescapable, and that made it harder for me to sit still and wait when I wanted to be up and getting somewhere. But when I found that I could over-leap time and space, crowd years of remembrance into an hour, or lengthen an hour into eternity, I saw my true self as a free spirit throwing into the winds the bonds of body and condition and matter. With Emerson I read a great poem or listened to a sublime utterance, or held the perfection of a flower in my hand, and instantly I was over the walls of mortal life, speeding through the uplands of boundless beauty. It was in the joy of these new thoughts that I wrote Optimism and The World I Live In.”
  • 1905 The Story of my Life The story of her childhood and young girlhood.
  • 1910 The Song of the Stone Wall “The idea of writing it came to me with the joy of spring while we were building up the old walls in our green field. In it I tried to [imagine] the men who had built the walls long ago. I dedicated the book to Dr. Edward Everett Hale because he, too, loved the old walls and the traditions that cling about them. Moreover, the zeal of the men who built them was upon his lips and their courage in his heart.”
  • 1913 Out of the Dark “This volume contains all hitherto uncollected magazine articles and addresses which seem for any reason worth preserving in book form.”
  • 1914 The World I Live In “I do not remember writing anything in such a happy mood as The World I Live In. I poured into it everything that interested me at one of the happiest periods of my life—my newly discovered wealth of philosophy and the feeling of the New England beauty which surrounded me. I had always revelled in the wonders of nature; but I had not dreamed what abundance of physical enjoyment I possessed until I sat down and tried to express in words the lacy shadows of little leaves, the filmy wings of insects, the murmur of breezes, the tremulous flutter of flowers, the soft-breathing breast of a dove, filaments of sound in the waving grass, and gossamer threads intertwining and unreeling themselves endlessly.”
  • 1927 My Religion “In My Religion I have written of how Swedenborg deepened my sense of the Lord’s presence on earth. His books have given me a richer understanding of the Bible and a precious sense of the Lord’s nearness. They have kept burning within me a desire to be of use and to help prepare the way for the second coming of our Lord in the lives of men.”
  • 1929 Midstream My Later Life. A sequel to The Story of My Life
  • 1933 Helen Keller in Scotland: A Personal Record Written by Herself “This collection of letters and speeches records chiefly experiences surrounding the Honorary Degree conferred upon me by the University of Glasgow…when the letters were written I had no idea that other eyes than those of the friends to whom they were addressed would read them. The speeches were composed hurriedly as I went from one function to another. The only reason for printing them is the hope that the story they tell of the general outlook upon the education of the handicapped and the lesson they teach of courage and victory over limitation, may prove of some interest and value to people with unimpaired faculties.”
  • 1938 Helen Keller’s Journal, 1936-1937 “In 1936 Anne Sullivan died. It is impossible for anyone, except Helen Keller herself, to appreciate what this break must have meant to one who had seen the world through the eyes of this great Teacher…Miss Thomson, now her closest friend, could tell a little about her courage during those days in the autumn of 1936. As soon as they could leave home, they came over to England, and Helen began to keep a journal. She poured her heart into its pages. Without restraint she described her thoughts and feelings; and one can trace how she has grappled with the problems of her new life, deprived of the presence of the woman who achieved what might be called her re-birth at the age of seven. This journal is a record of unshaken courage, and it is now set forth as she personally typed it from day to day on grey sheets of foolscap. Her friends, as well as the many who know Helen Keller only through her books and lectures, will welcome this opportunity of a new and intimate contact with that radiant spirit.”—Augustus Muir