The Story of My Life

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In my account of Helen last year [says Miss Sullivan], I mentioned several instances where she seemed to have called into use an inexplicable mental faculty; but it now seems to me . . . that this power may be explained by her perfect familiarity with the muscular variations of those with whom she comes into contact, caused by their emotions. She has been forced to depend largely upon this muscular sense as a means of ascertaining the mental condition of those about her. She has learned to connect certain movements of the body with anger, others with joy, and others still with sorrow. One day, while she was walking out with her mother and Mr. Anagnos, a boy threw a torpedo, which startled Mrs. Keller. Helen felt the change in her mother’s movements instantly, and asked, "What are we afraid of?" On one occasion, while walking on the Common with her, I saw a police officer taking a man to the station house. The agitation which I felt evidently produced a perceptible physical change; for Helen asked, excitedly, "What do you see?"

A striking illustration of this strange power was recently shown while her ears were being examined. . . . Several experiments were tried, to determine positively whether or not she had any perception of sound. All present were astonished when she appeared not only to hear a whistle, but also an ordinary tone of voice. She would turn her head, smile, and act as though she had heard what was said. I was then standing beside her, holding her hand. Thinking that she was receiving impressions from me, I put her hands upon the table, and withdrew to the opposite side of the room. The aurists then tried their experiments with quite different results. Helen remained motionless through them all, not once showing the least sign that she realized what was going on.1

1Keller, H.n/an/an/an/an/a, , 353–354 (Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc. By permission).

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Chicago: The Story of My Life in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. Thomas, William I. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937), Original Sources, accessed December 2, 2022,

MLA: . The Story of My Life, in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, edited by Thomas, William I., New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937, Original Sources. 2 Dec. 2022.

Harvard: , The Story of My Life. cited in 1937, Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. , McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York. Original Sources, retrieved 2 December 2022, from