Saturday, January 26, 2008

Helen Keller




One of the most important reformers during the Progressive era was Helen Keller (1880-1968). Well known for learning how to communicate despite visual and auditory impairments, Keller wrote books, went on speaking tours (with her teacher Anne Sullivan) and worked tirelessly on behalf of the blind, founding Helen Keller International. Keller's activism and convictions aligned her with socialist causes during her lifetime, and she was a member of the Industrial Worker's of the World, or "Wobblies."

Keller's papers are at the American Foundation for the Blind. This collection houses photographs, artifacts and awards from Keller's life, and documents and writing. Of particular interest are her comments about World War I, a letter to Woodrow Wilson, reflections on faith (read her exchanges with Mark Twain on this page too), and thoughts on education.

Also read her statement from "This I Believe" (1951), learn more about her work on behalf of women, and her thoughts about the senses.

There is an on-line HK kid's museum, a web presence for Ivy Green, Keller's birthplace, and a page for a women's hall of fame. There is even a Helen Keller Festival in Alabama. Check out her wikiquote page as well. Read an interview with Keller here, and watch video clips about Keller here and here and here.

Famous writings include an autobiography The Story of My Life (1903)--published the same year as The Souls of Black Folk--as well as "The World I Live In" (1908). Keller also published writing on socialism, "Out of the Dark" (1913), and a book on her Christian faith titled My Religion (1927). Many of her writings are available on-line here and here. A page devoted to her engagement with socialism is here. Similar to Du Bois, the FBI investigated the activities of Keller. Check out the file here. About how society remembers Keller, read this fascinating article.

Interestingly enough, W.E.B. Du Bois met Helen Keller in Roxbury, Massachusetts, while he was a student at Harvard. "Perhaps just because she was blind to color differences in this world," Du Bois wrote in 1931, "I became intensely interested in her, and all through my life I have followed her career."

Du Bois goes on to tell a story where when Keller once visited her home state of Alabama she "courageously and frankly...spoke out on the iniquity and foolishness of the color line. It cost her something to speak. They wanted her to retract, but she sat serene in the consciousness of the truth she had uttered. And so it was proven, as I knew it would be, that his woman who sits in darkness has a spiritual insight clearer that that of many wide-eyed people who stare uncomprehendingly at this prejudiced world" (Herbert Aptheker, ed., Writings by W.E.B. Du Bois in Non-Periodical Literature [1982], p. 164).

Who is Helen Keller, and how much, if at all, has your view about her changed as a result of reading some of the things she said? Why? If you could ask Keller one question about her life, what would it be?

Read and respond by 7:50am, Tuesday 1/29.


[Photo credit here.]

47 comments:

Nikolas said...

Truth be told Helen Keller could be considered an early feminist and possibly one of the strongest figures in American history considering that she was given some of the worst circumstances being both blind and deaf she rose up with her faith in God and the people around her. She helped establish methods that made life easier for people with disabilities. Helen Keller can be viewed by some as a become of hope for people with disabilities while others view her as a woman who stepped out from her own limitations and proved that although she did not have full use of her senses she could certainly live a full life.

Anonymous said...

Helen Keller is a women full of determination despite her stuggle with the aftermath of Scarlet Fever. Even though she was blind and deaf, the obsticals she encountered were no match for her drive. I always knew Keller accomplished many things in her life, but I never knew the significance in which they impacted her community, and later the world. I there were one question I would ask Helen it would be, "How were you able to persist?"
-Staley

Anonymous said...

the videos of helen keller were unusual since i did not even know what she looked like let alone ever she he in action. she is a remarkable woman that impacted the way many people viewed the "color line" back in the 19th century. i did not know she had that kind of influence until now. if i could ask her one question it would be: did ur fingers ever get calloused from feeling brail all of the time?

Anonymous said...

the one above is claire b...sorry

Anonymous said...

Helen Keller was a woman who was very inspiring to many people. I am just so amazed at the talent she had. I can not imagine being both deaf and blind at the same time. I enjoyed watching the videos on Helen Keller. To me it looked like she was happy with her life. I know it was hard on her but she managed to get through life and impacted so many people during it. If i had to ask her one question it would be, " what was your favorite book to read as a child?"

Kendall Shanklin!

Anonymous said...

my view on hellen keller has definitely been changed, having been blind, deaf, and tuberculosis, and yet still being able to do the things she did as in writing books and speaking publicly, it shows how much she was able to persevere through the extremely hard situations in which she was put into, I would ask her what the hardest thing she got through was and how she did it
Chris duncan

Anonymous said...

Helen Keller seems to me to be one of the most amazing people ever to live. I cannot even imagine being deaf and blind at the same time. She struggled so much through out her life. She relied so much on other people and touch and smell and taste. She seems to be a great person and I wish I could meet her some day. I learned today that she talked to people with them doing sign language into her hand. If I could ask her one question it would be: "How did you know people were walking into the room if you couldn't see or hear?"

Kendall Burgess
7th

Anonymous said...

Helen Keller is an inspiration to everyone. She has had so many problems impacting her life. She was both blind and deaf. She is a very talented woman. Most people with those disabilities would give up on life and feel like they could achieve nothing. Helen wrote books and was a very inspiring public speaker. The one question i would helen keller would be what got her through and gave her courage to achieve great things? Kirstyn

Anonymous said...

Helen Keller was an amazing, influential person in America. Her perseverance and determination despite her disability makes her one of the most remarkable woman in history. Her work allowed so many people to persevere through their struggles. If I could ask her one question it would be if she would have still had an interest in helping others if she didnt have her disability?

Shannon D.

Anonymous said...

Helen Keller was an extremely courageous woman. She did not allow her disability to hinder her from making a difference in the world. In the videos she looks as of she is "present" in the room meaning she looks as if she could hear and see everything around her. Her being a prolific writer shows her great intelligence and vast understanding of the people and the world around her. She is an inspiration to all of us. I love how when she was younger she vowed to not have a passive role in society. If i had to ask her a question it would be: Did knowing that the FBI was tracking your every move upset you or make you uneasy? Why or why not?

Mary Papasakelariou

Anonymous said...

Being blind, deaf, and therefore virtually dumb from an early childhood, what strikes about Helen Keller is that she persevered through her childhood misfortunes and became one of the single-most talented and influential women during her time period. Also, being able to develop the process of speech through the sense of touch is rather extraordinary to say the least. Another inspiring quality of Keller's is her knack to remain on optimist through her trials. If I were to ask her a question it would be, "Looking back, if you could have chosen between living life blind and deaf or have been capable of such senses which would you choose?"
- Jesse Worsham

Anonymous said...

Helen Keller is a great woman of the Progressive Era. She did not see the color of people, only their potential. She was the absolute opposite of a racist. I did not know all the stuff she did. I would ask her what gave you the fire despite all the problems in your life to keep going and make a difference in society.
Josiah

Anonymous said...

Helen Keller is a great symbol of what one can do even when the odds are not in ones favor. Being impaired as she was it is difficult for me to see how I much complain for simple things. I would ask her what was her main drive behind her learning.
-David Lee

Anonymous said...

When I read all of these documents I am more amazed by Helen Keller. Even though she could not hear or see, she managed to fight for a cause with extreme dedication. She was considered a hope by to all people, disability or not, that if you put your heart into something, you can achieve anything. I enjoyed reading her commentary on her visit to the zoo. Her dipiction of all the animals and their behavior was fasinating. If I could ask her one question it would be... "what was her favorite past time?"

-Jennifer Gurney

Anonymous said...

I think it is amazing that someone with such disabilities can still comunicate with people and actualy have a cause that is useful. I would have never had the patience to try to comunicate with her.

Logan h

Anonymous said...

Helen Keller was a women of blind faith. She was not domesticated by society and though blind saw more truth and beauty than thoes with sight. Her condition did not hinder her accomplishments or potential in any way at all. She is an inspiration! Her accomplishments passion fascinates me. Her influence on society has obvioulsy left a mark and goes to show nothing can stop someone with a goal. If i were to ask her one question it would," What gave you strength and the will to do the things you have done for our society?"
-Kayla Adel-

Anonymous said...

My view of Helen Keller has totally been changed. I always thought of her as some person with no brain that just went around doing dumb stuff, hence the Helen Keller jokes. But now that i know what she actually did and what kind of an impact she has had on our society, my view has totally changed. Her story has persevered me and should do so to everyone else. The one question that i would ask would be: "How could you, and how did you do all of the things that you did being blind and deaf."
Robert

Richard S. said...

Helen Keller was a very important reformer during the Progresssive Era. She changed many systems that were unfavorable to people with her types of conditions. I never read about Helen Keller in so much depth as I did now, but from reading what I've read, I understand why she is given
well-deserved reverence.
If I could ask Helen Keller one question, I would ask her how she managed to persevere given her condition?

Anonymous said...

Helen Keller was so inspiring! despite her disabilities she managed to be one of the most influencial reformers. This inspires me to stand up for what I beleive in, because Helen Keller stood up for her beleifs through such a difficult struggle. If I could ask her one question it would be "Who inspired you" or "what inspires you"
-shelby

Anonymous said...

Helen Keller was an talented and great woman in the US history. my view of her has changed, she did so many absolutely amazing works even though she was deaf and blind. She was also the first deafblind person to graduate from college. Hellen Keller shows how much power that potential could be which people think its unaccessible.
chen

Anonymous said...

Hellen Keller was a brilliant woman who lived her life as a role model to many people. She truly devoted her life to the progressive movement, women's rights and others who suffered with common disabilities. My view on Keller has changed to the extent that i now have a better idea of how even with her impairments she still managed to have a optimistic outlook on life.
My question would be "Who were your biggest influences growing up as a child?" -Alaina A.

Josh w. said...

though she is remembered most strongly as the picturesque young girl trying to learn language despite almost insurmountable handicaps, there is much more to Helen Keller than this scene from her childhood. The religious side of Helen is often overlooked, though with her separation from the human world she came to live almost entirely on a spiritual plane; her impressive drive for social reform and her socialist beliefs are often driven to the background of her life. Her life transcended the hardship of almost senselessness (literally, not in any way to belittle her mental capacity), and proved a momentous account to the possibilities of human achievement and progress.

Anonymous said...

i think helen keller could be one of the most influencial women during the 19th century. eventhough she struggled with her disabilities of being blind, deaf, and mute she still lived her life to the fullest and became an author as well as a public speaker.

-serena hudson

Anonymous said...

Despite her unfortunate visual and auditory disadvantages, Helen Keller, referred to by Mark Twain as the most wonderful creature in the world, appears to be one of the most inspirational American reformers of the Progressive era. But it seems her words have stretched beyond her own time period as millions of people are still inspired today by her extreme optimism.
This being the first time I've read about Helen Keller, I am surprised and impressed by her interaction among American issues: World War I, American prejudice, religion, etc.
Aside from her activism, I have figured to myself that Keller's impairments paved the way for her entrance to American history. In other words, Helen Keller had remarkable things to say, but she was publicly recognized mainly because she learned to say her thoughts despite blindness and muteness. Based on this assumption, would Helen Keller consider her visual and auditory impairments an aide in her entrance to American history?

-Austin Price

Anonymous said...

To say Helen Keller was insperational would be an understatement, because not only was she strong in spirit but vocal on issues concerning all America. I loved the document "The Simplest Way to be Happy", because logically would not being blind and deaf seperate you from the certain enjoyments in life? Keller though did not become a recluse but defied her physical limitations to remind the world of its pending issues and obligations. Keller says "A happy life consists not in the absence, but in the mastery of hardships." This is not only a direct application to her life but to every life. I would ask her "Do your think that because you were physically different, that you were able conclude the same beliefs you hold to be true because of your limitations?"
Sarah McDonnell
1st period

Anonymous said...

Helen Keller is a true inspiration. All of the many different foundations and organizations that she was apart of or founded were successful. Helen Keller was able to spread her joy through her writings in books like The Story of My Life and Light in my Darkness. She constantly worked to help those that were blind or disable. I never knew that Helen Keller was a part of the American Foundation for the Blind. I also never knew that she was a talented writer.

-Davison

Anonymous said...

Helen Keller really is a very smart, strong, and independent women. Even though she was bound by many disabilities she fought hard through these hardships and became a legend to always be remembered!!!!!!
kendall stiefel

Anonymous said...

yes, she should be heard and seen in all our lives. (Pun)

Anonymous said...

Before reading about Helen Keller, I was not aware of all her accomplishments. She is one of the most determined and inspiring women ever. Some people thought her life was unfortunate, but she impacted more people than any other person i know. If i could ask her one question, i would ask "If you were not blind or deaf, do you think you would have made as many accomplishments as you did?" -mary kelley

Anonymous said...

When I read Helen Keller's papers and read about the things that she did and said I looked at her in a completely different light. Before i learned about these things, the only times I really heard about her were in jokes, which is kind of disappointing because I now realize how her actions affected people in that time period.
Nick Daniels

Anonymous said...

It makes me feel even lazier than I normally feel when I read about Helen Keller. Its odd that if she had never had the scarlett fever that she probably would have no place in history. Kinda makes you try to see the better things in life.
-Matt Kreston

Anonymous said...

Helen Keller was a young women that had more courage and determination than anyone i know. She grew up with nothing that we have. She could not see the physical beauty in things or hear the sound of nature, but i believe these disabilities have effected her in a positive way for she had a totally different perspective and view on life. She is viewed as one of the most prominent women in American History. If i could ask her one question it would "Did you still look to God in a positive manner or did your disabilities make you feel like he has wronged you?"

-cooper smith

Anonymous said...

Helen Keller is heroic American figure in her own way. She overcame many disabilities and difficulties in her life that might have destroyed her. She was an inspiration with the many things she worked hard at and the struggles she overcame. Very few people could accomplish what she did in her life.

Kevin Smith

Anonymous said...

i definitely gained a ton of respect after reading this post, b=just because most of the things i know about her are just the basic facts. this is really the first time, ive read one of her quotes. if i could ask her one thing, it would be something like, "what was the hardest part about learning to communicate?"

-allison e.

Anonymous said...

Helen Keller never ceases to impress me. She impacted and improved her society laughing in the face of her disabilities. Involved in not only helping others with her disability, Helen also advocated women's rights and the progressive movement. She is truly a role model for overcoming such astonishing obstacles. If I could ask her one question it would be, If you could choose to remove your disabilities, would you?
Sarah Adams.

Anonymous said...

Helen Keller was, without a doubt, a very inspirational human being and still inspires people today with her story. Although she was deaf and blind, that did not stop her from learning and helping others. I, too, thought it interesting that she could communicate with people by having them do sign language into her hands. If i could ask her one question, it would have to be "how were you so determined to help others even though it was extremely difficult for you to communicate with others?"
--Hayden Smith

Anonymous said...

She was a reformer and a socialist and despite the fact that she became blind and deaf due to an illness, she later wrote books. Also she was part of Industrial Worker’s of the World, or “wobblies”. She was an extraordinary woman who overcame her illnesses and impacted the world. She was also a woman of religion and who read the Bible and wrote a book called My Religion”. Her writings really changed my views of her because before I didn’t really understand how much she had done to help and impact the world, but now I see the extremely dedicated woman she really was. The one question I would ask would be why didn’t you just give after becoming blind and deaf? At least for me that would have made life miserable and unbearable, but not for you, you overcame and preserved through the trials.

Josh McKenzie: 1st period

Maw Wocha!! wasss up... said...

Helen Keller was blind and death and all but she still overcame all these major set-backs and rose to aid this country with her reform. she was pretty awesome! and she has a sick up-do!!!

Anonymous said...

Helen Keller is a woman who is full of spririt and passion. Even though she was blind and deaf at the same time she still publically spoke and wrote books. It's amazing how much someone whom we would consider handicapped can achieve. to be honest, I had actually only heard the name helen keller. Ihad no idea who she was until now. I only knew that she was a speaker of somekind (thanks to when Crickets Cry.)Now that I know who she is, I respect her. If I could ask Helen Keller one question, it would be: How do you deal with everyday life? being both deaf and blind?

David Lim

Anonymous said...

Helen Keller was a lady that would not be discouraged by any situation. Even though she could not see she figured out ways to read. It makes me feel bad that i take my hearing and sight for granted. I think i would go crazy if i couldn't hear anything or see the people who are around me, but it is amazing that she was able to be taught how to communicate with other people.


DAvid Jennings

Anonymous said...

if i could describe hellen keller in one word it would be productive. despite her disabilities, hellen keller never gave up. she has left a important message to the world: never give up. she influenced us and left an impact on all of the people who know her story. i cant imagine living a life blind and deaf. she did not let anything hinder her. the story of her learning with the water pump is incredible to me. hellen keller in the video looked happy and content with the novel she was reading. if i could ask her one question it would be: where did you find the strength to persevere?
-J.Graves

Anonymous said...

hey guys i enjoyed this article and really thought it was interesting. I learned alot about Helen keller and communtication.

-Jason S.-

oug Chipponeri said...

By searching through the variety of links posted on this blog, I became very familiar with the life of Helen Keller and how she dealt with and perservered through life while being blind and deaf. she was a great reformer in the progressive era and was a real role model in this era and later on.

Anonymous said...

Jason no one cares what u think

Anonymous said...

Even though she was blind and deaf she didn't let that stop her. SHe could have very easily given up but she didn't which made her such a great person.

-martha deleon

Paige! said...

I think it's really interesting that Hellen Keller was able to overcome all of her limitations and disabilities, some from birth and some acquired later on in life, and became one of the most influential people in the Progressive Period, if not, in the 20th century!
His,
Paige!
P.S.~ I especially find the connection with W.E.B. Dubois interesting and informative!

Anonymous said...

im doing a biography book report and i dont know why i chose helen keller i couldve chosen michael jackson.