Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Revolutionary Of The Week

Helen Keller

Helen Keller was born June 27th, 1880 in Tuscumbia, Alabama. At 19 months old she came down with an illness described by doctors as "an acute congestion of the stomach and brain". This could have been Scarlet Fever or Meningitis. The illness left her deaf & blind, but by age 7, Keller had begun to learn to cope by inventing over 60 different signs so that she could communicate with her family.
At the advice of Alexander Graham Bell, her family travelled to see a specialist & later Keller recieved a great, disciplined, specialized education.
Today's America seems only to know Helen Keller for overcoming disadvantages, & her advocacy for the handicapped. And although this is very inspiring, there was much more to Helen Keller than this.
By 1909, Keller had become a Socialist. Soon after, she became a vocal supporter of the working class & traveled the country to voice her opposition to war. She asked, " How can our rulers claim they are fighting to make the world safe for democracy, while here in the U.S. negroes may be massacred and their property burned?"
As a woman with disabilities, she was patronized by the same media that held her high as a heroine. The editors of the Brooklyn Eagle wrote, " Her mistakes spring out of the manifest limitations of her development." Keller was quick to respond with a quote that was printed in the papers, " So long as I confine my activities to social services and the blind, the newspapers compliment me extravagently, calling me an 'arch-priest of the sightless' and 'wonder woman'. But when I discuss poverty and the industrial system under which we live, that is a different mater."
Keller critiqued the goverment propaganda campaign to get Americans to support the war, & spoke out at such places as New York City's Carnegie Hall in 1916.
Keller joined the famous labor union, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in 1912 after she felt that parliamentary socialism was "sinking in the political bog". She also wrote for the IWW between 1916 & 1918.
She urged workers to strike at the heart of America's drive toward war. "Strike against war, for without you no battles can be fought. Strike against preparedness that means death and misery to millions of human beings. Be not dumb, obedient slaves in an army of destruction. Be heroes in the army of construction."
Helen Keller died June 1st, 1968, 26 days shy of her 88th birthday, at her home in Eaton, Connecticut.
* Interesting fact: Helen Keller is credited for introducing the Akita to America through "Kamikaze-go", an Akita dog given to her after her visit to Japan in 1937. He later died, but Keller recieved his brother, "Kenzan-go". By 1938 a breed standard had been established in the U.S.