Letter from Theodore Roosevelt to Helen Keller, March 19, 1903. From the Library of Congress Manuscripts Division.
In early 1903, “Miss Helen” paid a visit to the White House and met with President Roosevelt. In today’s letter, Roosevelt tells the young woman how much he enjoyed her book and would always remember her visit. The book was Helen Keller’s first of twelve she would publish in her lifetime, The Story of My Life, an autobiography written with the help of her famous teacher Anne Sullivan. It makes sense that Roosevelt, the voracious reader, would comment on Keller’s book first and foremost in his short note.
Keller was born on June 27, 1880, a healthy baby girl. She did not lose her sight and hearing until she was nineteen months old following what historians believe was a bout with scarlet fever or meningitis. The child would be wild and uneasy to control because of her lack of communication skills. A visit to Dr. Alexander Graham Bell in 1886 led the family to Anne Sullivan, the teacher who would finally break through Helen’s communication barrier. Once Keller had the tools, her keen intelligence became known. She would go on to be a world renowned speaker and writer as well as an outspoken advocate for disabled persons. When President Roosevelt met her, she was completing her course of study at Radcliffe College, and she would be the first deaf-blind person to earn her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1904.