Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Helen Keller: author, political activist

Helen Keller
It is the birthday of author and political activist Helen Keller (1880), whose autobiography The Story of My Life (1903) recounts her triumphant struggle to overcome her deafness and blindness and get an education. She wrote it while she was in school at Radcliffe College, from which she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1904.

Keller became deaf and blind from disease she contracted as an infant. Beginning in 1886, she was trained from childhood by Anne Sullivan, who was first her teacher, then her governess and finally her companion. Sullivan helped Keller for 49 years until her death in 1936.

Keller's account of her life and her development under the direction of Sullivan was the basis of a series of productions called The Miracle Worker. It was first presented as a Playhouse 90 television production in 1957. It became a Broadway play in 1959, and a Hollywood film in 1962, starring Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke. It was remade for TV in 1979 and 2000. The title came from friend Mark Twain, who referred to Sullivan as "the miracle worker." She was also friends with Charlie Chaplin and Alexander Graham Bell.

Politically, Keller was a socialist, radical leftist, and anti-war activist. She was a member of the Wobblies, and helped found the American Civil Liberties Union. She actively campaigned for workers' rights, women's suffrage, birth control, and Socialist presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs.

Keller wrote 12 books, including The World I Live In (1908), about her world; Out of the Dark (1913), about socialism; and Light in My Darkness (1934), about religion.

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