Tuesday, June 27, 2006
June 27: Helen Keller (1880-1968)
According to the Ouch! blog, this week is Deafblind Awareness Week in the UK. Perhaps not coincidentally, today is the 126th anniversary of the birth of Helen Keller in Tuscumbia, Alabama. Although popular cultural images of Keller focus on her childhood and early education, she lived to be almost 88 years old, active in the causes of socialism, suffrage, and peace. Recent Keller scholarship presents a far more complicated portrait of this well-known American, including her ambivalent relationship with disability rights and the ways her biography gets adapted (to the point of sanitized) for various purposes. She is surely the only feminist socialist Swedenborgian depicted on an American coin, for example (she's on US quarters as the emblem of her home state, Alabama).
Some recent works on Keller include:
Kim E. Nielsen, The Radical Lives of Helen Keller (NYU Press 2004).
Kim E. Nielsen, ed. Helen Keller: Selected Writings (NYU Press 2005).
Kim E. Nielsen, "Helen Keller and the Politics of Civic Fitness," in The New Disability History: American Perspectives, Paul Longmore and Lauri Umansky, eds. (NYU Press 2001).
Georgina Kleege, "Helen Keller and 'the Empire of the Normal,'" American Quarterly 52(2)(2000): 322-325.
Liz Crow, "Helen Keller: Rethinking a Problematic Icon," Disability and Society 15(6)(2000): 845-859.
J. C. Quicke, "'Speaking Out': The Political Career of Helen Keller," Disability and Society 3(2)(January 1998): 167-171.
Keller's The Story of My Life (1903) is available as an e-text from Project Gutenberg.
The Helen Keller Archives at the American Foundation for the Blind is an extensive online (open-access) collection of her letters, photographs, and other items.