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April 25: Helen Keller in Fargo

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One of the most inspiring Americans of the 20th century visited Fargo on this date in 1914. Helen Keller, who was left blind and deaf from sickness as a small child, spoke at First Methodist Church with her teacher and longtime companion, Anne Sullivan. They were lifelong friends.

Helen Keller was a trailblazing advocate for people with disabilities. In 1914, she and Sullivan were on a lecture tour. Helen’s mother traveled with them. One of their stops was Fargo, where they stayed at the Waldorf Hotel. The YWCA sponsored their appearance and took them on a tour of the city before the evening lecture. In anticipation of Keller’s visit, a neighborhood social club read Keller’s 1903 autobiography “The Story of My Life.” At the time of visit, Keller was 33 years old.

The evening’s lecture was called “The Heart and the Hand,” or “The Right Use of Our Senses.” Tickets were one dollar; students paid fifty cents. The Fargo Daily Courier-News gave a glowing account of the lecture. The large church was filled with an overflowing crowd. Anne Sullivan spoke first. She recounted her teachings with Helen: learning to spell words, reading in Braille, writing letters to friends, and eventually, learning to speak.

Helen Keller spoke next, for half an hour. She told the audience: “I am glad to stand before you and meet you in fellowship. I cannot hear your voices, but I feel your loving kindness and it makes me happy.” The newspaper reported “she wanted to encourage others to make the most of their opportunities.” Keller said: “The hands of others opened the world to me,” and “By helping others, I find life beautiful.” Keller also spoke of her Christian faith and her trust in God. Afterward, Anne Sullivan explained how Helen could understand speech by vibrations, a skill they demonstrated for the audience. The next day, the tour left Fargo for Winnipeg. Fargo was reportedly “the smallest place on their itinerary.”

Anne Sullivan died in 1936. Helen Keller in 1968. Their ashes rest together at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura


  • The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican. 1914, March 6. Page 5: Social notes
  • The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican. 1914, April 18. Page 9: The most remarkable lecture ever given (advertisement)
  • The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican. 1914, April 25. Pages 6, 7: Miss Keller is here tonight
  • Fargo Daily Courier-News. 1914, April 26. Page 16: Large audience hears miracle of Helen Keller
  • The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican. 1914, April 27. Page 7: Social notes
  • Grand Forks Herald. 1914, April 27. Page 5: Helen Keller in Fargo
  • The Winnipeg Tribune. 1914, April 28. Page 3: Blind and deaf, Helen Keller thinks she sees and hears more than either you or me
  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1936, October 29. Page 4: Value of patience
  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1968, June 3. Page 10: Helen Keller, 87: Subject of eulogies throughout the nation
  • Helen Keller, Findagrave.com: findagrave.com/memorial/567/helen-keller
  • Anne Sullivan, Findagrave.com: findagrave.com/memorial/659/anne-sullivan
  • American Foundation for the Blind. Helen Keller biography. Retrieved from: afb.org/about-afb/history/helen-keller/biography-and-chronology/biography#family
  • Helen Keller Intl. Helen Keller’s life and legacy. Retrieved from: helenkellerintl.org/who-we-are/helen-keller/

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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