The Helen Keller Connection

Today is the 45th anniversary of Helen Keller’s death.

What makes the date “06880”-worthy is that the author, political activist and lecturer — who overcame deafness and blindess to inspire the world — died quietly on June 1, 1968 in her Westport home. (Or not — see comments below.) She was 87 years old.

I have a dim memory of my mother pointing her out to me, in a Main Street grocery store. I wish I had been old enough to understand the significance of all she accomplished — and perhaps to have shook her hand.

Helen Keller

Helen Keller

(Thanks to alert reader John Suggs, for passing along the date.)

22 responses to “The Helen Keller Connection

  1. Jonas Shapiro

    My 2nd grader is learning about Helen Keller in school and told me she lived in Westport. I had never heard this and thought perhaps she was confused. I forgot to research it but now I don’t have to!

  2. Madeleine ("Mandy") Mercier

    I remember we used to drive by her house and I had been told (as a chidl) it was Helen Keller’s house. I had read a book about her and later saw “The Miracle Worker.” Her house had a name — I can’t remember it now — anyone? But we always knew it was her house and how special and important she was.

  3. Mark Mathias

    The understanding I’ve heard is that Helen Keller lived in Easton, but had a Post Office Box in Westport, hence the reason people thought she lived in Westport. There is a Helen Keller Middle School in Easton, CT which would lend some credibility to the idea that she lived there. I have no evidence of these items other than having heard of this from some friends. Oh, and I’ve been to the Helen Keller Middle School, so I know it exists.

  4. I have always wondered if Keller Lane, off Turkey Hill North, is the location of her house.

  5. Jack Backiel

    I have a relative who worked for Helen Keller. I have a copy of her (Helen Keller’s) autobiography that is signed by her. It says: To Agnes Pozdan who can see how one can live happily in a silent, dark world. Helen Keller, September 4, 1944.

  6. Amy Schneider

    A shout out to the Connecticut Braille Association and its director Micki McCabe located at the Westport Woman’s Club house on Imperial Avenue. My grandmother typed Braille there for 50 years until she retired at 90 years old.

  7. Keller lived at the corner of Redding Road and Rt 136 in Easton, 136 is also called Westport Rd.

  8. A. David Wunsch

    It has been generally forgotten that Helen Keller was a Socialist. Her Socialism grew out of her compassion for the disabled , poor, and downtrodden. Google the words “Why I am a Socialist, & Helen Keller” and you may get an interesting lesson and perhaps admire her more.
    A. David Wunsch
    Staples High, Class of 1956

  9. If you click on the link where the words “in her Westport home” are, it takes you to a NY Times article. It says she moved to Westport in 1936 from New York. It said she lived the rest of her life in Westport and died in her Westport home in 1968. I cannot understand why no teachers or relatives ever mentioned that Helen Keller lived here. That was news to me today. Thanks, Dan.

  10. I am finding websites that say she died at Arcan Ridge in Easton. http://www.yourpublicmedia.org/content/connecticut-historical-society/helen-keller-connecticut
    Perhaps the New York Times was wrong.

  11. The overwhelming majority of sources erroneously report Helen Keller died in “Westport” Connecticut. In actuality, she died at her home, “Arcan Ridge” located in Easton, Connecticut. The dateline on most of her obituaries was Westport, Connecticut, and this was the place of death many mistakenly attributed to Ms. Keller. Most biographies continue to misreport not only her place of death, but also the location of her home as “Westport” Connecticut. The problem is exacerbated by the fact Helen Keller was living in Easton, but had a Westport post office box for all her correspondence. Even her stationery listed a Westport post office box while she lived in Easton. Westport is just a few miles to the south of Easton, and it was not uncommon for some residents to get their mail there, or in nearby Fairfield. Officials from the local historical society there in Connecticut have repeatedly addressed the issue, but the discrepancy about where Keller’s home was located, and where she died, continues to unnecessarily puzzle some. One last time — she died at her home “Arcan Ridge” located in Easton, Connecticut, not Westport, Connecticut. AccuraryProject.org/cbe-Keller,Helen.html

  12. She lived on Westport Road in Easton. The house was built for her in 1936. There are some photos here:
    http://historyofredding.com/epl/twain-keller-exhibit3.htm

    • Wrong again. I wrote to the Historical Society of Easton, and this was the response I got:
      “Barbara, her home was the one at 163 Redding Road. The driveway enters from Redding Road right at CT 136 aka Westport Road and the house actually faces Westport Road. That is the second home that she had at that site. The initial house burned down in 1946 while she was away in Europe doing charitable work related to WWII.

      If you go through the “Recent Events” section of the Historical Society Website you will find a feature article about the relationship between Mark Twain aka Samuel Clemens, and Helen Keller. The homes were gifts to her of the wealthy businessman Gustav Pfeiffer, Chariman of The Warner Lambert Company. If you pick up a copy of this next week’s Easton Courier (comes out on Thursday and you can find it at The Easton Village Store) the edition will feature a story about Gustav Pfeiffer, who left a remarkable legacy in Easton.

      In the Hellen Keller/Mark Twain feature there are two photos. One is of the two of them together and one is a photo of her at her home in the yard but there is not an actual photo of the house.”

      If you scroll down almost to the bottom of this link, you will see the two photos. http://historicalsocietyofeastonct.org/recent-events/

  13. I actually knew her when I was young. Her companion like to paint and they would come into my father’s store, Max’s, to buy supplies. We would chat (through her companion). I have her favorite young adult biography which she autographed in front of me. Knowing her and owning that book are two of my prized memories and possessions.

  14. Dan, I’ve been in her Easton house. Many years agone, I was in Jim Calkins’s office at Staples (he was reprimanding me for wearing a necktie while he was wearing sport shirts) and someone (Annis Pryzbisky?) had dropped a bulky package on his desk with a note reading “What to do?” It was addressed to Helen Keller and was clearly a Braille publication. “I pass by her house going home and I’ll drop it off,” I said. I entered her driveway and –knowing my place–followed the signs to “service entrance.” I went in a back door, and there I was in the kitchen–a black and white tiled place, quite 1920s No one was around. I left the package on a counter, and quietly took my leave.

  15. Gerry Kuroghlian

    In high school and college years, I worked at the Spinning Wheel Inn in Redding. Miss Ke.ller frequently dined at the Inn on Sunday. She met me by feeling my face and telling her companion I had an “intelligent look”. ( I wore glasses) She had the entire wait staff to her home which was in Easton to “give back” to those who had waited on her during the year. She was a remarkable woman and I was delighted to know her and “talk” to her about my educational progress. .

  16. She would put her hand around the front of my neck (very scary for a little girl) and by the vibrations, she knew what I was saying. She would hand spell her responses to her companion.

  17. Wendy Crowther

    This story was fascinating and it lead me to look around for more info. I found a photo of the Arcan Ridge house. Here’s a link:

    When the first house burned to the ground, an exact replica was built so that Ms. Keller could remain comfortable in familiar surroundings. She renamed it Arcan Ridge, the same name she had given to the original. This is according to a press release sent to the American Foundation for the blind in October of 1947. Here’s a link to that release:

    http://www.afb.org/section.aspx?FolderID=3&SectionID=44&TopicID=252&DocumentID=1147

    • It’s interesting that the press release also says the house was in Westport. It was in Easton. I knew the original house burned in 1946 when Keller was in Europe. I never really thought about all the things she lost inside the house.