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Helen Keller Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-112513).


Keller, Helen (27 June 1880–01 June 1968), author, reformer, and symbol of personal courage, was born Helen Adams Keller in Tuscumbia, Alabama, the daughter of former Confederate captain Arthur H. Keller, a publisher and business entrepreneur, and Kate Adams. She was an unexceptional child until struck in her nineteenth month by an illness that was, possibly, scarlet fever. The event, she later recalled, “closed my eyes and ears and plunged me into the unconsciousness of a newborn baby.” Profoundly and permanently deaf and blind, she was to carve out a life that astonished nearly everyone....


Tutwiler, Julia Strudwick (15 August 1841–24 March 1916), educator, reformer, and humanitarian, was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The daughter of Henry Tutwiler and Julia Ashe, she grew up in a home devoted to education, which became her lifework. Her father had earned a master’s degree in foreign languages at the University of Virginia and had accepted a position as the first professor of ancient languages at the University of Alabama when it had opened in 1831. Resigning in 1837 because of a financial dispute, he established Greene Springs Academy in Havana, south of Tuscaloosa. His daughters studied Latin, science, and mathematics with boys, upsetting many citizens. Tutwiler and her father taught slaves and poor white children to read. This experience influenced her to devote her life to serving others. Many of her classmates gained prominent positions as adults and supported her causes....


Wright, Sophie Bell (05 June 1866–10 June 1912), educator and humanitarian, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the daughter of William H. Wright, a planter and former Confederate soldier who had been impoverished by the Civil War, and Mary S. Bell, daughter of a planter from St. Mary Parish, Louisiana. Permanently crippled by a fall at age three and immobilized for some six years, Sophie was educated at home until about 1875. An apt pupil, she attended elementary and secondary schools at Franklin, St. Mary Parish, Louisiana, until she was fourteen. Two years later, recognizing the inadequacy of her education, Wright arranged to teach mathematics at Peabody Normal Seminary in New Orleans, in exchange for the privilege of attending other classes there....