Helen Keller was a radical

Title

Helen Keller was a radical

Description

It’s not surprising that Helen Keller supported the National Woman’s Party. Her politics were consistently radical - she was a Socialist, a pacifist, and a supporter of birth control (and eugenics). So naturally, she favored NWP’s confrontational approach to suffrage. 🧵

Keller was one of the most famous women in the US by the 1910s. After graduating fr Radcliffe in 1904, PhiBetaKappa, she wrote & lectured widely. Keller grew up in Alabama in a wealthy family that had owned people. She was radicalized by her advocacy for those with disabilities.

She was shocked to learn how frequently industrial accidents led to disability, and how poverty, lack of medical care, and inadequate housing contributed. She joined the Socialist Party, the Industrial Workers of the World (the Wobblies), and to her family’s consternation, NAACP.

Many who had fawned over her achievements suddenly questioned her capacity, she noted wryly in a 1912 essay. “The Brooklyn Eagle says, apropos of me, and socialism, that 'Helen Keller's mistakes spring out of the manifest limitations of her development.’

“Some years ago I met [the] editor of the Brooklyn Eagle...the compliments he paid me were so generous that I blush to remember them. But now that I have come out for socialism he reminds me and the public that I am blind and deaf and especially liable to error. I must have shrunk in intelligence during the years since I met him. Let [the Eagle] attack my ideas and oppose the aims and arguments of Socialism. It is not fair fighting or good argument to remind me and others that I cannot see or hear. I can read."

Though Socialism and disability rights were Keller’s primary commitments, she also devoted time to suffrage. She was scheduled to address the 1913 Inauguration march in Washington, but the chaos which consumed that event made it impossible; Keller left. Alice Paul was mortified.

Three years later, the launch of the National Woman's Party in Chicago - see 👇 - went more smoothly. Helen Keller addressed the crowd, hailing the NWP as embodying “the aspirations of millions of intelligent women." #19thAmendment 

Creator

Daily Suffragist

Date

08/08/2020

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Citation

Daily Suffragist, “Helen Keller was a radical,” Daily Suffragist, accessed October 19, 2021, https://dailysuffragist.omeka.net/items/show/477.

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