TIL Helen Keller was accepted to Harvard in 1900. Mark Twain introduced her to Standard Oil magnate, Henry Rogers, who paid for her education. And in 1904, she became the first deaf-blind person to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Read the Story

Show Top Comments

I found out recently that what i knew of this woman were literally the least interesting aspects of her life.


She was also a raging socialist who’s story has been eroded and whitewashed to hell by history textbook writers.


Didn’t she actually attend Radcliffe? Or are they sister schools or something?


One of the little known facts about Helen Keller, who died in 1968, was that she excelled at pinball. She had become familiar with pinball, a pin based game called a “bagatelle” or “Japanese billiards” until the twentieth century, while dating Peter Fagan with whom she would eventually try to elope. Keller had first been exposed to pinball in Queens where she was living with Anne Sullivan. The early games were not electrified and did not require the same skills as flipper games (ShutterBun et al, 2021) but the early games helped Keller develop skills the later electronic games would require. Keller’s first recorded exposure to an early pinball machine, not yet electrified called “Baffle Ball” and played for a penny, was recorded by her in her notes as being “exhilarating.” By the nineteen thirties many pinball games would become electrified and Keller would try to play as many of them as she could. When not lecturing, writing or advocating she could be found standing in front of a pinball machine head cocked slightly to one side working the paddles with eerie precision. When asked if she could hear the balls or the table she would just smile and say she could “see them.” She never explained what she meant by this. In the early tournaments promoted by the pinball manufactures to sell the games Keller won several regional championships. She was acknowledged as being nearly unbeatable by many and some, perhaps with envy, referred to her as being a “wizard” of the game. Keller would begin to lose her enthusiasm for pinball starting in nineteen thirty six with the death of her long time teacher and companion Anne Sullivan. Her thwarted attempt to elope with Peter Fagan had caused her an ongoing feeling of depression and the death of her long time friend considerably diminished her enthusiasm for the game. Still, Keller continued to play right up until the United States entered WWII. The war would destroy her interest in pinball and she would never return to the game. By the time Keller would fly to New Zealand in nineteen forty eight her earlier winning way with pinball had been long forgotten. The post war years would see Keller continue to write and lecture but she would never play pinball again. Her earlier championship career would be lost to history as the world rebuilt itself after the long struggle that had affected so many. Keller would never mention the game after the war but she was sometimes seen by a window with her head cocked to the side with her hands twitching. When asked what she was doing she would reply “just watching.” She never explained what she meant by this.


In the play “The Miracle Worker” they make a big deal of how Helen had this miracle insight at a water pump but in truth that was just played up for dramatics and Helen herself said later it wasnt that big of a deal. Helen was a cash cow for Anne Sullivan and others. Helen raised money for womens right to birth control yet wasn’t allowed to have sex herself. The one young man who showed interest in Helen was threatened and run off by Anne.