Each Tuesday on the Ethan and Lou Morning Show, we are joined in studio by Mike Allen. Mike does research on a local human interest story each week and presents his findings in a segment called "The Place You Live" which is aired live between 8 and 9 AM on I-95.

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This week Mike gave us a deeper understanding of the life of Helen Keller and shared her connection to Easton, CT. The above photo is a current picture of the house that Helen lived in for the last third of her life.

This actually gets a bit tricky because Keller lived in two versions of that house on the same property. The house actually burned to the ground when Helen was traveling abroad and had to be built again from the ground up.

The original house was built (1938) for Keller by Gustav Pfeiffer, a business mogul and philanthropist, Pfieffer founded the drug company Warner Lambert. Gustav so admired Keller, that he custom built the Easton home to fit her very specific needs and he rebuilt the home 8 years later after it was destroyed by fire.

Historical Society of Easton, CT with permission

Pictured above a gathering to display a model of Arcan Ridge (Helen's home) with Helen Keller (center) and her benefactor Gustave Pffeifer of Easton to her immediate right (credit: Historical Society of Easton)

Today, it is a private residence but has a design feature on the exterior that would delight Helen Keller, it has the Braille translation of the address, right beneath the numeric marking.

Photo: Mike Allen

It was also in this home that Helen Keller carried on her brave work of educating herself and others, despite being deaf and blind. She also took in famous visitors while living in Easton, she would play host to famous admirers like Charlie Chaplin and Mark Twain.

Helen Keller died in 1961 but her achievements reverberate through time, some of which include:

  • Founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
  • First deaf/blind person to earn a college degree (Radcliff 1904)
  • First woman to receive an honorary doctorate from Harvard
  • Awarded the Medal of Freedom by LBJ in 1964
  • Met 13 U.S. Presidents

Helen Keller is an inspirational human who was surrounded by others who continue to inspire. Helen had to be taught words, not just how to spell them or what they mean, she needed to be taught words as a general concept. Try and imagine, you close your eyes and you cannot hear, how would you even know what a word is?

The person responsible for that education was a woman named Anne Sullivan. One of the first words Sullivan taught Helen Keller was water. In Keller's autobiography (The Story of My Life) she explained how this first breakthrough happened, writing:

I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motions of her fingers. Somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that w-a-t-e-r meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. The living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, set it free.

Photo: Historical Society of Easton with permission

Pictured above (from left to right) Helen Keller, her teacher Anne Sullivan, Mark Twain of Redding and publisher Laurance Hutton.

That first language breakthrough had Keller's attention, she wanted to know so much more and with the keys to unlock the knowledge now in her possession, she learned 30 words by nightfall.

More facts about Helen Keller:

  • Helen was born with the ability to see and hear but lost both senses at 19 months due to either meningitis or scarlet fever.
  • Keller spoke in 35 different countries advocating for the American Federation for the Blind.
  • Patty Duke played Helen Keller in the 1962 film "The Miracle Worker."
  • Helen learned to speak by touching people's mouths while they spoke.

Don't miss "The Place You Live" every Tuesday morning on the Ethan and Lou Show featuring Mike Allen.

Special thanks  - Historical Society of Easton & Mike Allen 

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