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The Archivist: Helen Keller inspired veterans in a 1944 visit to Oklahoma

Mary Phillips: Helen Keller went to Borden General Hospital in Chickasha during November 1944 to visit battle-deafened World War II soldiers.
BY MARY PHILLIPS Published: June 25, 2012

My calendar lists three dates of interest in June: Flag Day, the summer solstice and, on Wednesday, June 27, Helen Keller's birthday.

It will be the 132nd anniversary of the birth of a most remarkable woman, and Nov. 17 will mark the 68th anniversary of her visit to Oklahoma.

Many people know the story of her early life from the television drama, play and movie “The Miracle Worker,” which portrays the momentous event when Keller was able, with the help of teacher Anne Sullivan, to associate the word “water” with the liquid that was flowing over her hand.

Keller was born with normal hearing and sight, but lost both at the age of 19 months due to a mysterious fever.

As she grew older, she became uncontrollable as her frustrations from trying to communicate increased.

At the age of 7, Keller was brought to Massachusetts' Perkins School of the Blind, and there, she met teacher Anne Sullivan, an association that would last 49 years.

From the moment Sullivan communicated the concept of water to Keller, she began to learn. She would attend and graduate from Radcliffe College.

Keller became an author, speaker, humanitarian and an inspiration to the world.

In November of 1944, with World War II still being waged, she came to Chickasha to visit battle-deafened soldiers at Borden General Hospital. She was on a coast-to-coast tour of Army hospitals.

The Oklahoman on Nov. 14, 1944, announced her visit: “Miss Keller will discuss the rehabilitation problems of the veterans, giving special attention to those who were blinded and those suffering from deafness.”

When Keller died June 1, 1968, The Oklahoman interviewed John A. Morris, who in 1944 was the director of the speech and hearing center at Borden General Hospital in Chickasha.

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