100 Greatest Women On Coins Series: Helen Keller

We talk about it often in this series, the impact that women have had on coin designs throughout history all over the world. Fictional or non, allegorical or mythological, real or not real; it does not matter who they are, but what they represented during a time that made them impossible not to feature. This next woman is one that symbolized courage and strength and remained inspirational in the face of adversity. With help from author Ron Guth, we will take a closer look at her story as featured in Whitman Publishing’s 100 Greatest Women on Coins.

#2 – Helen Keller

Born in Tuscumbia, Alabama, in July of 1880, Helen Keller’s life started out just like any other normal child’s life. However, her life would change when she became sick before her second birthday with a fever. No one knew exactly what it was then, but it was inferred that it was scarlet fever. It would leave her blind and deaf. She would go on to use basic sign language with her family, but it became difficult, and she became extremely frustrated. While visiting an eye specialist, the doctor recommended that they contact Alexander Graham Bell (inventor of the telephone). He would refer them to the Perkins School for the Blind in Boston where she would meet Anne Sullivan.

Helen and Anne’s relationship was portrayed most famously in the 1962 movie The Miracle Worker. In one of the most dramatic and memorable scenes, Helen was finally able to make the connection between the word “water” and the liquid that was flowing over her hands. This moment changed her life, with Helen herself describing in her book, The Story of My Life, “that living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free.”

With years under Anne’s guidance, Helen would grow up to be a successful woman where she attended Radcliffe College and became the first deaf-blind person ever to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1904. She was a writer of essays and books and also gave lectures around the world, speaking about women’s suffrage, socialism, and peace. She would also go on to co-found Helen Keller International, which helps to prevent blindness, malnutrition, and disability. It is still in existence today and is headquartered in New York while working in 20+ countries across the globe. In addition, Helen was a socialist and advocated for the working class. She was a member of the International Workers of the World and a fierce defender of workers’ rights.

With all her accomplishments, Helen Keller was featured on the reverse of the 2003 Alabama Statehood Quarter as part of the United States Mint’s 50 State Quarter Program. She is depicted sitting in a chair reading a book in Braille. To her right, her name is featured in both English and Braille, which was the first time the writing system was used on a United States coin. She is also featured on medal issues.

Collecting difficulty is defined as easy, according to Guth. The 2003 quarter dollar is available in Mint State and Proof conditions in addition to circulated coins that can be found in your pocket. Proof versions can be found in silver and clad and purchased with a slight premium.