Re-Re-Writing History: The “Myth” of Helen Keller (just sayin’)

HelenKeller_AnneSullivanLast week I wrote about Laura Bridgman, who it turns out was the first deaf and blind person to be successfully educated, not Helen Keller.  What prompted that story actually had to do with a piece of Helen Keller history that came to my attention recently, and I wondered “why have I never heard about this?”

I would like to begin by saying I am not attempting to denigrate Helen Keller’s life and legacy or diminish her many accomplishments, but I was a bit shocked to learn these new facts about her.  You can take it for what its worth and make your own conclusions.  Read on.

Helen Keller, Socialist

By November 1912 her name and “socialism” had been in the news for awhile (and would continue to be for years to come).  She was told by friends that she had “shared the front pages with baseball, Mr. Roosevelt and the New York police scandal.”  She was happy that people were interested in her and teacher Anne Sullivan, who had married John Macy.  “Even notoriety may be turned to beneficent uses, and I rejoice if the disposition of the newspapers to record my activities results in bringing more often into their columns the word Socialism.”

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  1. Thanks. This is something I’d heard about but never had sources for.

    • Great … there are tons of articles and web sites (marxist, socialist, etc.) who claim her as “one of their own”. If you have time be sure and watch the video — very good.

  2. Hi Sharon,

    Thanks for a good article covering a little-known aspect of Helen Keller’s life. I enjoyed watching “The Real Helen Keller” at the link you provided.

    Another little-known aspect of Helen Keller’s life is that spiritually, she was an ardent Swedenborgian–which put her just as much outside the religious mainstream as she was outside of the political mainstream.

    She wrote a book called My Religion, which spoke of her spiritual views and her indebtedness to Emanuel Swedenborg for them. Unfortunately, it was not well edited, probably for the same reason her socialist views were shunted to the side: It didn’t promote the popular image of Keller as a saintly do-gooder with nary a radical thought. Some years ago it was re-edited into better form, and republished as Light In My Darkness–one of my all-time favorite books.

    Here’s the funny thing: Swedenborgians consider her a hero, but don’t want to acknowledge that she was a socialist. Socialists also consider her a hero, but don’t want to acknowledge that she was a Swedenborgian. The various deaf/blind institutions consider her a hero, but don’t want to acknowledge that she was either a socialist or a Swedenborgian.

    The reality is that Helen Keller didn’t fit into anyone’s box.

    I hope that one day she will receive the full respect she deserves for being a unique, strong-minded individual dedicated to the well-being of humankind even if that meant defying public opinion and the expectations it placed upon her.

    • Thank you so much for the info .. that’s very interesting. Yes, I still believe, despite her political beliefs, she was an amazing woman — that’s the reason I said upfront my purpose wasn’t to denigrate her or her accomplishments in any way. Did you happen to read the article from the previous week about Laura Bridgman, entitled “Who Was First?”

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