Dear Helen Keller,
What can I say that hasn’t already been said about you? You are a true icon to look up to, and I hope for generations to come children look at you with a twinkle in their eye and the strength and courage to live like you.
(the actual letter is short this time I know, but I decided to write a different sort of bio, about the older Helen in hopes she will open some more eyes. )
When people think about Helen Keller (thousands of jokes aside), they think of the play/movie “The Miracle Worker,” or just know that she was deaf and blind. But she was also a fighter of the good fight, a fantastic writer, and, a Socialist. While everyone is in awe of her spirit at a young age to fight to learn what comes so easy to most of us, that spirit kept her, and her joie de vivre alive for decades upon decades after that.
After graduating cum laude from Radcliffe, Keller learned that more than half of all cases of childhood blindness were caused by venereal disease passed from mother to newborn. Even more shocking was the fact that most doctors could easily have given eyedrops to the baby to save their eyesight, but refrained because they didn’t talk about “social diseases” with women, who, in the early 1900s, weren’t supposed to know about such things. Keller of course was more incensed than most, and wrote a positively scathing article in Ladies’ Home Journal about this information and was able to change many doctor’s minds about such practices. But that was really only just the beginning in her stellar career as human being and mother of the befallen.
Joining the Socialist Party in 1909, she began her path of helping not just the blind and handicapped, but the downtrodden as well. She played an active role in the Industrial Workers of the World and helped found the ACLU. She also very vehemently (through her letters and lectures) protested WWI and called for American neutrality. She donated to the newly founded NAACP, and touted the importance of the Suffrage Movement. She lectured and wrote many articles about the importance of her close friend’s, Margaret Sanger, work with this new thing called “Planned Parenthood” in the early 20s. That carried through near the end of her life, when the US saw its first legalized contraception.
Helen Keller: Stand up person, period.