A look back in time: Helen Keller visits Riverhead in 1933

(Credit: Suffolk County Historical Society)
(Credit: Suffolk County Historical Society)

Most people are familiar with the story of Helen Keller, the blind and deaf girl who learned how to communicate with the help of her beloved teacher, Anne Sullivan. Fewer know that as an adult Ms. Keller traveled around the country delivering inspirational lectures. 

In February 1933, she gave one such speech to the Woman’s Club of Riverhead at the Riverhead High School Auditorium, the Suffolk County Historical Society said last week. The event led our forefather, The Riverhead News, to make this statement later that month: “It is said of Miss Keller that she is a brilliant example of what may be accomplished in spite of physical handicaps — she has demonstrated how even physical infirmities add no barrier to a life of happiness and accomplishment.”

No admission was charged for the speech, SCHS officials said, but contributions were accepted. In total, $307.46 — a sum that roughly translates to more than $5,600 today — was raised from the “Helen Keller Benefit,” according to an account from the Riverhead Woman’s Club.

In addition to Ms. Keller’s speech, the event featured violin solos by Bessie Wells and vocal selections by baritone Alton Medager, the historical society said.

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