Helen Adams Keller is one of the most universally recognized figures in US history. Many people do not know but, she was an extremely serious political thinker who made multiple contributions to the Socialist Theory. She was a true pioneer in changing the way others thought of people with disabilities and nearly ended disability oppression.
Even though Helen was blind and deaf, she overcame her disabilities and became one of the leading Humanitarians in the 20th century. Helen’s early life was the most troubling of times. She was born on June 27, 1880, in Tuscumbia, Alabama. However, the presumably healthy child contracted an illness that left her not only deaf, but blind as well, at just nineteen months old. As Helen continued into childhood, she had developed a limited method of communication. Unfortunately, during this time, she had become wildly rambunctious and would torment her parents with intense tantrums. Many family members insisted she should be institutionalized. Looking for answers, the Keller family reached out to a majority of specialists and came across Michael Anagnos, the director of Perkins Institute for the Blind.
He suggested that Helen work with the schools most recent graduate, Anne Sullivan. After months of work, Helen finally made the connection of the object and letters, W-A-T-E-R.By the time of 1904, Helen had just graduated Radcliffe College and began her career as a writer by publishing her first book. Her memoir, The Story Of My Life, was a detailed story dealing with her early life, especially her interactions with Anne Sullivan. The book’s dedication reads, “”TO ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL; Who has taught the deaf to speak and enabled the listening ear to hear speech from the Atlantic to the Rockies, I DEDICATE This Story of My Life.” Segments of memoir were later adapted to the play, The Miracle Worker.
She had truly become a global celebrity. Throughout the 20th century, she tackled numerous social issues such as Women’s Suffrage, Pacifism, and birth control. One of the issues she was most passionate about was welfare for the blind. She joined multiple campaigns and also testified in front of congress, strongly activating for the well-being and security of the blind. Throughout her political career, she helped with multiple organizations and campaigns for the blind. In 1915, she co-founded Helen Keller International with George Kessler to help fight against the causes and effects of blindness and malnutrition.
Later, in 1920, she helped found the American Civil Liberties Union. She became a member of the American Federation for the Blind in 1924. She participated in numerous campaigns to raise awareness, money, and support for the blind. Soon after she graduated college, Helen became a member of the Socialist Party. Between 1909 and 1921, she wrote multiple articles about socialism and supported the presidential candidate, Eugene Debs. Two major factors that led to her contributing were her readings on society and philosophy, and her growing interests in studying the specific conditions of people with disabilities.
Unfortunately, the dream that Helen Keller fought for her whole life was not truly grasped by her generation. Since her death, her dream—the dream of a socialist world, without oppression and war—has stayed alive into today’s time. That dream has not died, and will not fade as long as there are people in this world who fight for what Helen believed could be possible.