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Helen Keller, rebel lives

Helen Keller, rebel lives

'I have entered the fight against the economic system in which we live. It is to be a fight to the finish and I ask no quarter.' —Helen Keller

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Revolutionary activist, better known for her blindness than her radical social vision. This book challenges the sanitized image of Helen Keller, restoring her true history as a militant socialist. Here are her views on women's suffrage, her defense of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), her opposition to World War I and her support for imprisoned socialist and anarchist leaders as well as her analysis of disability and class.

 

Ocean Press, 88 pages, Soft Cover.

 

In many ways, the story of Helen Keller's life has been sanitized for public consumption, confined to images of The Miracle Worker and to passages from her early debut in the Ladies Home Journal. Her story is so remarkable because she went on to become a noted speaker and author, despite her loss of both sight and hearing at the age of two. While we all know that Helen Keller went on to become a public figure and advocate for the blind, less remembered is her radical social vision, her opposition to World War I, her support of workers' and women's rights, her outspoken defense of socialism. The fact that Keller could speak and write at all has somewhat overshadowed the subjects of her speeches and writings, which were largely radical and controversial. Some excellent selections of these have recently been collected and published in Ocean Books'Rebel Lives series, which features a title on Helen Keller. Contained within this collection are excerpts from speeches and private correspondance, and articles on class and disability, socialism, war and women's liberation.

Helen Keller's life has often been the subject of politically conservative myth-making, an object lesson for overcoming the odds of disability and disadvantage to attain success: the ultimate American dream. In reality, Keller was deeply opposed to the idea that equality could realistically exist in a capitalist society, believing "that the power to rise is not within the reach of everyone", that social inequality, war, and exploitation of human life were all symptomatic of a fundamentally corrupt economic system based on greed and the relentless pursuit of profit. Miss Keller was, quite simply, a red: first in public, later mostly in private, always adamant. In a statement reminiscent of Orwell's socialist hero Gordon Comstock (Keep the Aspidistra Flying), Keller's quote on the back cover defines her vision: "I have entered the fight against the economic system in which we live. It is to be a fight to the finish and I ask no quarter".

Funny, then, that Alabama should have chosen Helen Keller to grace its quarter dollar coin.

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