This Day In History: June 28

Changing the day will navigate the page to that given day in history. You can navigate days by using left and right arrows

On June 28, 1904, Helen Keller—deaf and blind since an illness at just 19 months old—graduates cum laude from Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Keller becomes the first DeafBlind person to earn a bachelor’s degree.

According to an article the next day in The Boston Herald, Keller earned enthusiastic applause at the commencement exercises held at Sanders Theatre. In his graduation speech, Radcliffe President Le Baron Russell Briggs seemed to allude to Keller when he said that, at Radcliffe, “shall the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf be unstopped.” And while every newly minted grad got their share of cheering while receiving their diplomas, the applause seemed “a little more spontaneous,” the reporter wrote, when Keller crossed the stage with her teacher and "miracle worker" Annie Sullivan.

Keller went on to live a life of extraordinary achievement. She grew up in a small town in Alabama but later traveled to nearly 40 countries as a Goodwill Ambassador. She become a prominent advocate for improved educational and job opportunities for people with disabilities. She wrote more than a dozen books, the best-known being The Story of My Life, which was translated into 50 languages and adapted for both stage and screen as The Miracle Worker. Keller fought for many causes, working as a pacifist, suffragist, labor union advocate, supporter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, a card-carrying socialist and a member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). She met with every U.S. president from Grover Cleveland to John F. Kennedy. And in 1964, President Lyndon Johnson awarded her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Keller’s alma mater, originally a women’s liberal arts school, formally merged with Harvard University in 1999. Keller lived to be 87, and died on June 1, 1968 in her longtime home of Easton, Connecticut.