Skip to: site menu | section menu | main content

Welcome To Democracy And Socialism .Com

Things should be made as simple as possible, but not any simpler

- Albert Einstein

Helen Keller (1880 – 1968)

Helen Keller

But socialism-oh, that is a different matter!
That goes to the root of all poverty and all charity.
Helen Keller.

Helen was a beautiful, happy 19 month old little girl, when a febrile disease possibly viral meningitis struck her as thunder and lightning and left her deaf and blind; an incident that locked her from the outside world. This silent and dark world made Helen an angry, outraged and frustrated child. Screaming, smashing things and terrorising the whole household. Some of the superstitious inhabitants of their small town, Tuscumbia, Alabama, believed that Helen’s soul was possessed by demons and she should be sent to an institution and kept there for ever. Nevertheless her parents chose a thought-out way. With help from Alexander Graham Bell, the family was referred to Perkins institute for the blind in Boston. This institute provided Helen with Anne Sullivan as a teacher and intervenor.

Anne herself became partially blind by a disease at the age of 5. At that time Anne was 21 and Helen was about 7 years old.  Mrs. Macy, as Helen called Anne, became part of Helen’s life until her death in 1936.

We discover our surrounding world through our senses. In the absence of major senses, sight and hearing, we have to see and hear through touching, tasting and smelling. That is what Mrs. Macy taught Helen. Words were spelled into her hands; colours and the nature of things were translated to her brain by smelling and tasting.

Helen began to change, not only she became aware of the world around, but she learned the way to change it for good.

Later, her hypotrophy eyes were replaced with synthetic ones by surgeons for aesthetic reasons. But behind these glassy eyes were a world of kindness, full of the sense of sympathy and friendship to all of the human beings. To find the root of human misery, she was acquainted with all of the classic socialist writers, especially Marx, Engels and Lenin. By absorbing the words through her fingers in English, German and French Braille, she became a socialist and faithful to her cause until her death.  She, for instance, sent a warm greeting to Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, the communist leader, after her release from prison in 1957. Helen improved herself not only through studying theories but through the participation in political and social activities.

In 1915, she founded Helen Keller International, a non-profit organization to combat malnutrition and blindness. In the same year, she was involved in the campaign against frame-up, false conviction and then execution of Joe Hill, a song writer and a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

Helen was an active member of the IWW, she wrote, “I have visited sweatshops, factories, crowded slams. If I could not see it, I could smell it.”

In 1920, she helped to found the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), an organization which defends free speech for all Americans. ACLU reported that it has over 500’000 members at the end of 2005.

Helen traveled across the US and the world, met many famous figures including several US presidents to convey her cause and express her concerns about wars and human suffering.

She was a close friend of Charlie Chaplin, and interestingly was acquainted to the extra- ordinary works of this master of silent movies; even in 1919 she starred in a silent film, Deliverance.

Helen was a suffragist and an ardent applicant of women’s rights. In 1965 she was elected to the women’s Hall of Fame at the New York World’s Fair. She received many scientific and philanthropic awards from around the world for her extra-ordinary achievements in many fields. Helen was a great writer and lecturer. She wrote 12 books and many articles on social issues, women’s right and about the people with disabilities.

In 1953, an Academy Awards winning documentary “the unconquered” was made about Helen’s life. In 1957 and 1959 the play “The Miracle Worker” was about Helen and Anne’s life. In 1962 this play was made into an Academy Awards winning movie.

87 years of life of this extra-ordinary woman came to an end peacefully in Arcane Ridge, Connecticut on June 1st 1968.

Her selected works:

  • The Story of My Life, 1902

  • Optimism, 1903

  • The World I Live in, 1908

  • The Song of the Stone Wall, 1910

  • Out of the Dark, 1913

  • A Call for Harmony, 1913

  • New Vision for the Blind, 1913

  • Brutal Treatment of the Unemployed in Sacramento Star, 1914

  • Menace of the Militarist Program, 1915

  • Strike Against War, 1916

  • Why I Became an IWW, 1916

  • Letter to Morris Hillquit, 1917

  • What is the IWW, 1918

  • To Eugene V. Debs, 1919

  • End the Blockade of Soviet Russia! , 1919

  • Help Soviet Russia, 1921

  • Light in my Darkness, 1927

  • Midstream – My Later Life, 1929

  • The Spirit of Lenin, 1929

  • Peace at Eventide, 1932

  • Helen Keller in Scotland, 1933

  • Helen Keller’s Journal, 1936-37, 1938

  • Teacher, 1955

  • More...

Back to top