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Snapshots in History: June 27: Remembering Helen Keller

June 27, 2013 | John P. | Comments (0)

(1930 Newsreel Footage – Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller)



(Helen Keller Speaks Out)


On June 27 and beyond, take a moment to remember Helen Adams Keller (Born: June 27, 1880; Died: June 1, 1968), American political activist, pacifist, suffragist, author, lecturer, advocate of the disabled, and champion of deaf-blind people. Helen Keller lost her hearing and sight at 19 months of age from either meningitis or scarlet fever. Keller was the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, graduating from Radcliffe College in 1904 at 24 years of age. Mark Twain, an early admirer, introduced Helen Keller to Standard Oil magnate H.H. Rogers and his wife who paid for her education at Radcliffe College. Helen Keller is best known in tandem with Anne Sullivan, who helped Helen to communicate with the outside world by initially spelling words into Helen’s hand. Prior to Radcliffe College, Helen attended one school for blind people and two schools for deaf people as well as the Cambridge School for Young Ladies.

Keller learned to speak and gave many lectures and speeches over her life. She learned to “hear” people’s words by reading a person’s lips with her hands by using her sense of touch. Helen Keller also learned to communicate with Braille and Sign Language.

In the broader world, Helen Keller is less well-known for her political activism, including her membership in the Socialist Party of America and the Industrial Workers of the World (or “Wobblies” - which held its founding convention from June 27 to July 8, 1905), and for her help in founding the American Civil Liberties Union in 1920.  In 1915, Helen Keller, along with George Kessler, a survivor of the Lusitania sinking, founded Helen Keller International, dedicated to preventing blindness and reducing malnutrition in the world with work occurring in 22 countries, including 13 in Africa, 8 in the Asia-Pacific region, and the United States.

Consider the following titles for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:


Helen Keller Rebel Lives

Helen Keller [Rebel Lives] / Helen Keller et al., 2003. Book. Adult Non-Fiction.

Read about Helen Keller’s support of socialism, the IWW, and pacifism during World Wars One and Two. Read also what author Mark Twain and socialist leader Eugene V. Debs had to say about Helen Keller.


Helen Keller selected writings

Helen Keller: selected writings / Helen Keller, Kim E. Nielsen (ed.), 2005.

Academic Kim E. Nielsen grouped Keller’s writings on a chronological basis with emphasis placed on the 1924-1945 and 1945-1960 writings when Keller was focused on advocacy for disabled people on a global basis.


Light in my darkness

Light in my darkness [2nd. Ed., rev. and enl.] / Helen Keller, 2000. Book. Adult Non-Fiction.

Keller supported the religious teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg and of the New Jerusalem Church.


The story of my life

The story of my life [Restored ed.] / Helen Keller, 2003. Book. Adult Non-Fiction.

This 100th anniversary edition covered the early years of Helen Keller’s life up to 1903 during her time at Radcliffe College.

Also available in eAudiobook (unabridged), eAudiobook (unabridged), and eBook formats. 


The world I live in 

The world I live in / Helen Keller, 2003. Book. Adult Non-Fiction.

Helen Keller outlined how her senses, sensations and imagination fit in with her perception of the world.


Helen Keller a life

Helen Keller: a life / Dorothy Hermann, 1998. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. Click here for more copies.

Biographer Hermann peeled away the public’s perception of Helen Keller as a champion for the deaf-blind to examine other facets of this complex individual as a writer, a lecturer, and a socialist. The author also looked at Keller’s positive character traits of strength, kindness, courage, intelligence, and stoicism along with the negative ones: vindictiveness and pettiness. 


The miracle worker

The miracle worker / William Gibson, 20002. Book. Adult Non-Fiction.

Read playwright William Gibson’s dramatization of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan’s relationship. 


The radical lives of Helen Keller

The radical lives of Helen Keller / Kim E. Nielsen, 2009. Book. Adult Non-Fiction.

Nielsen examined the limited effectiveness of Helen Keller on political matters in contrast to her championing of the deaf-blind.



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